Thursday, January 21, 2010

Officials Urge Residents to Donate to Haiti Relief

As images of the devastation caused by last week’s earthquake in Haiti continue to spur New Yorkers to open their wallets and donate to the relief effort, local elected officials are urging residents to help in any way they can.

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been especially active since the natural disaster rocked the nation of 10 million people. First, along with Senator Charles Schumer, she introduced legislation to temporarily waive tax deduction limits on all charitable contributions for relief efforts in order to provide a boost to donations.

“The tremendous damage in Haiti is horrifying and sobering for all of us as New Yorkers and Americans,” said Gillibrand. “The outpouring of support from individuals across the country is inspiring, but there is more we can do… I pledge that I, along with my colleagues in Congress and the Obama Administration, will continue to do everything we can to bring relief to the people of Haiti.”

To avoid falling prey to scams, the senators are urging donors not to respond to any unsolicited e-mails seeking donations, not to give personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions and to use online resources to verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations, instead of following a purported link to the group’s site.

In the days following the earthquake, Gillibrand also pushed the Obama Administration to provide temporary status to Haitians now living in America. This designation will allow Haitians to continue living and working here for the next 18 months, which will avoid forcing them to return immediately to their devastated country. Gillibrand also pressed the State Department to help orphaned children, prioritize orphanages in Haiti for assistance and ensure that Haitian-American parents fleeing the island can leave with their children.

Prior to last Tuesday’s earthquake, there were about 20,000 children living in Haiti’s 187 licensed orphanages, and the U.N estimates there was a total of 380,000 before the disaster.

Last Friday, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), State Senator Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) gathered with religious leaders and Red Cross representatives to urge New Yorkers to contribute to emergency relief funds established for the earthquake victims.

“No words can adequately describe the devastation and suffering that has struck the people of Haiti,” said Crowley. “In one day the lives of millions have been drastically changed forever… The earthquake has destroyed hospitals, schools and homes, leaving millions without food, water, basic infrastructure and medical assistance.

“The destruction is so bad that the Red Cross has run out of supplies,” continued Crowley. “Please join me in donating to the relief – donate whatever you can – no matter how small. If every Queens resident contributed just $1 each then we could raise nearly $2.3 million in relief of those who need it most. Everyone should take a moment to pray for those suffering in Haiti”

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) is also urging New Yorkers to donate to the Red Cross or other trusted charities. “The global community mourns the tragedy of such a catastrophic natural event, and we will work together to repair and rebuild Haiti,” he said. “We can help. We must help. We will help.”

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