Foundation Grants Help Agencies Respond to Lessons of Katrina
Challenges faced by the elderly, ill, poor and immigrants during Hurricane Katrina have spurred the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Found-ation) to award grants to 10 agencies across the state that have particularly innovative ideas for reaching vulnerable populations before and after emergencies.
The BCBSNC Foundation today announced a total of more than $325,000 in grants to help North Carolina nonprofit groups and government agencies implement plans to help vulnerable populations.
Those plans include an effort in eastern North Carolina to use church networks to help communities prepare; a project in a mountain county to use ham radio for emergency communications; a coastal initiative to create a mapping system to allow responders to locate homes of the ill, elderly and disabled; and a plan to use a Spanish-language television network for preparedness education.
Following Hurricane Katrina, response agencies in Louisiana reported a variety of problems reaching the elderly, ill, disabled and others in need.
Nearly 60 percent of the deaths in Louisiana were of people over the age of 60, and 215 people died after being stranded in nursing homes and hospitals. There were few systems in place to define, locate and help people with special needs, and traditional means of communicating with hospitals and other emergency medical services proved useless.
"Hurricane Katrina revealed real challenges that communities and agencies face in making sure residents in greatest need are cared for in a crisis," said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. "North Carolina agencies are ready to learn from those lessons, and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is pleased to support these practical yet innovative ways to reach vulnerable people before, during and after an emergency."
The grant recipients included the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which will receive $40,000 to upgrade its disaster plan and purchase a mobile generator that can be used to support relief operations in eastern and coastal North Carolina.
The Sandhills branch of the Food Bank is based in Southern Pines.
Other recipients include:
-- The Triangle Chapter of the American Red Cross is receiving $25,000 for its partnership with Spanish-language Univision 40 TV for preparedness education for Hispanic residents. The project will include public service announcements and other educational initiatives.
-- Community in Crisis, a Clayton-based organization that is receiving $48,400, will use church networks to help teach community teams how to respond to disasters as part of a collaborative effort with Mount Olive College. The program will work with organizations associated with both Baptist and Catholic churches, and it will target Hispanics and other rural residents in Johnston, Wayne, Sampson, Craven and Duplin counties.
-- The Cape Fear Council of Governments, based in Wilmington, is receiving $28,000 to create a registry and map of vulnerable people in New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus and Pender counties. The registry will include the name, address and specific needs of those residents, including the disabled and chronically ill.
The BCBSNC Foundation announced the availability of emergency preparedness grants in January. By the March 3 deadline, it had received 59 requests totaling more than $2 million.
"We're pleased with the start we've made and believe these grant recipients will serve as examples for agencies across North Carolina," Higgins said. "The need and desire to serve our most vulnerable residents are larger than any single agency or foundation can meet. We are hopeful that the government, nonprofit groups, philanthropic community and businesses will help us fill this gap."
As part of the grant program, the BCBSNC Foundation will convene a conference of grant recipients next year to discuss lessons learned and effective practices that can be implemented by other agencies seeking to help vulnerable residents.
"I congratulate the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation on their efforts to improve emergency preparedness in North Carolina," said Bryan E. Beatty, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which heads the state's emergency preparedness and response efforts. "In addition to the great work being done by these grants, I hope people will log on to our new Web site designed to help individuals and families be ready for emergencies www.ReadyNC.org."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), North Carolina was affected by 40 percent of the 62 weather-related disasters that struck the United States between 1980 and 2004, more than any other state in the country. Each disaster cost at least $1 billion, according to estimates.
The state also has a high proportion of vulnerable groups, with 14 percent of North Carolina's population living below the poverty level, 12 percent with an age of 65 or older, and approximately 21 percent being disabled.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation provides financial support to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians. This mission is achieved through programs and services funded in response to grant requests, as well as through funding for programs supporting needs identified by the BCBSNC Foundation.
Since its inception in November 2000, the BCBSNC Foundation has awarded more than $27 million in grants to organizations throughout the state. In addition to its grant program, the BCBSNC Foundation supports several signature programs.
These programs include Be Active Kids, an award-winning program that teaches preschool children about nutrition and physical activity; and Healthy Community Institutes for Non-Profit Excellence, two-day intensive training sessions offered free of charge to all North Carolina nonprofits.
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