Although Northern Nevada won't shelter Hurricane Katrina evacuees en masse, a grassroots relief group is still collecting donations at the old Wal-Mart in Carson City.
The group's founder said Monday she'll distribute the used clothing, canned food and toys to any disaster survivors who end up in Nevada on their own.
Tammi Geraci, founder of Katrina's Hope, said volunteers are boxing up clothing for a family of three from Biloxi who is staying in Reno and any other evacuees who need it. On Sunday night she filled the father's car with gas from donations given to the organization, which is operating under the nonprofit status of the Nevada State Firemen's Museum Liberty Engine Company No. 1 in Virginia City.
"Oh, my God it has been crazy," she said Monday afternoon, standing inside the doors of the Wal-Mart, which hasn't been open in more than two years. "It'll be slow and then five cars will come."
Because Max Baer Jr.'s building at 4209 S. Carson St. has been out of use since the Wal-Mart closed in 2002, a thin layer of brown dirt marked by shoe prints covers some areas of the floor. It has remained undeveloped because of a dispute Baer has with neighboring property owners. The hollow space echoes with the sound of volunteers sorting and asking questions about the sorting. Geraci estimated that about 50 cars dropped off donations the first morning.
"I love helping people out, it makes me feel better," said Kaysha Turner, a stay-at-home mom from Carson City.
She is separating clothing for the Biloxi family living in Reno. So far she has seven boxes of clothing.
Children's toys and other miscellaneous objects - such as a coffee maker - were set up inside the old 1-hour photo department.
Katrina's Hope is a "take-it-all" organization, so quite a few strange donations have turned up. Everything from a futon to 15 jars of home-style canned apples to a box of laxative tea. Volunteers were also surprised when they came across a rock in a bag of donations.
"A lot of my friends are not giving anything because they feel that other people can give, so they don't feel like they have to," said Carson City resident Jessica Marable, who dropped off a bag of shoes with her mother, Helen. "But if it's in your heart to give you should."
The organizational structure is being built, Geraci said. The one-week-old group has been "winging it at this point, but it's coming together beautifully."
She's doing this because the American Red Cross isn't accepting donations for the victims, only money.
"We are an outlet for hundreds of people who want to give things," Geraci said. "If there is more supply than demand it'll be boxed, shrink-wrapped and sent to a place that does need it."
For information call Katrina's Hope at 691-4039. All clothing donations should be separated into boxes for men, women or children.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.