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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lay in craps

Before I Deal: The Biloxi Sun Herald was one of the first newspapers to give this writer his fledgling break and carry Deal Me In. Any writer who syndicates a column will tell you that they forever feel a special kinship to the community where their column first appears. But even if you have never been to the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, few can view the staggering blow dealt the area and not feel a need to pitch in.

The least I can do is suspend monthly billing the Biloxi Sun Herald, indefinitely, and ask instead that the Sun Herald disburse that money to an appropriate relief fund to help those in need. Yet, I suspect my column might not even be carried for some time as the dozen gaming establishments were severely damaged by Katrina -- costing the state coffers a half-million dollars per day in lost, desperately needed tax revenues, not to mention the effect on the 14,000 people who work in the 12 casinos along the Mississippi coastline. Why would anyone want to publish the insignificant until the crippled gambling industry gets back on its feet, which could take months, potentially even years.

So how can you and I lend a helping hand? By raiding that jar of quarters stashed in a cupboard above the refrigerator; quarters designated for some anonymous one-armed bandit, now become quarters needed to ease the misery. The American Red Cross is a good place to start inserting that loose change. Their hotline number is (800) 435-7669, (http://www.redcross.org). Donations will provide clean water, food, and shelter for the surviving disaster victims. For your donation to go specifically to Hurricane Katrina relief, write Katrina on the check.

Other relief agencies that have set up dedicated websites and phone lines for donations to help with rescue and rebuilding are the United Methodist Committee on Relief: (800) 554-8583 (http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/emergency/hurricanes/2005), The Salvation Army: (800) 725-2769 (http://www.salvationarmyusa.org), Catholic Charities: (800) 919-9338 (http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org), Feed the Children: (800) 525-7575 (http://www.feeddthechildren.com) and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, (703) 339.5596 (http://www.nvoad.org).

I hope the residents of Biloxi and Gulfport will accept my sincere words of sympathy in connection with the natural disaster that has struck their area. I am incredibly aware that Hurricane Katrina has caused immeasurable grief and significant economic losses to hundreds of thousands of citizens, but I will await with great anticipation for that southern charmed "come on down" call, so I can personally open my wallet again and pump some much needed dollars into their economy. Hopefully you all will do likewise.