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Business Donations to Hurricane Relief Massive and Growing


U.S. President George Bush spoke Thursday in Louisiana, his fourth visit to the Hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast region. Mr. Bush proposed an unprecedented package of aid. In addition to federal aid, private contributions and donations from foreign countries, the American business community is also helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks on America, corporations gave nearly $750 million dollars to charities.

After the tsunami hit Southeast Asia in December, U.S. businesses gave $565 million.

Since the United States' most recent natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, companies have donated $305 million in cash and that number is growing.

A New York-based bank, Emigrant Savings, has branches all over the Gulf Coast where the hurricane hit. It gave each customer in the hardest hit areas $1,000 dollars.

Graham Painter is Senior Vice President of another bank, Sterling Bank, in Houston. "We would like to start out with a ten thousand dollar donation ... to help our neighbors right across the border."

But money is not the only thing being donated. At a Citgo gas station in North Carolina, one business owner is giving away free gas, in exchange for donations of clothing, toys and other necessities.

One patron said, "I don't care about the gas. What I cared about was getting help for the victims of the hurricane."

Phone company SBC gave $1 million and set up thousands of phones in Texas shelters, so victims could make free calls to friends and family.

Johnson & Johnson, which makes healthcare products, gave $5 million and donated a variety of disaster relief products.

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch offered more than 825,000 cans of water, and Sprint Nextel Corporation donated 3,000 phones for emergency personnel.

But the retail giant Wal-Mart has led the way in corporate contributions.

Wal-Mart has donated $17 million dollars in cash and $3 million worth of supplies. They've set up a hurricane gift registry so victims can register for items they need. They have arranged an emergency contact service so customers can post messages and search for loved ones. They have even guaranteed jobs to all displaced Wal-Mart employees.

Their speedy reaction to Hurricane Katrina has been widely praised, with some suggesting federal, state and local officials -- who have been criticized for their slow response to the hurricane relief effort -- could learn lessons from Wal-Mart.

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