Governor unveils Operation Evergreen

Gov. Christine Gregoire yesterday announced Operation Evergreen, a Washington state effort to host up to 2,000 people from the Gulf Coast disaster area. Washington is joining several other states in what has become a national humanitarian effort to care for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

“Like so many people in Washington, I want to help our fellow citizens in their hour of need” said Gov. Gregoire. “My heart goes out to the people in Louisiana and Mississippi who have lost loved ones and virtually everything but the clothes on their backs. Their suffering – and what they have witnessed and been through – is unimaginable.”

When the first guests from the Katrina disaster area will begin to arrive in Washington state is yet to be determined, but could come later this week. Katrina guests could possibly land at McChord Air Force Base and be housed temporarily at Fort Lewis Army Base initially before moving to other residences. This has not been confirmed and is pending federal approvals.

“Multiple state and local agencies, the Red Cross, and other community organizations are engaged in preparing to provide services to these disaster victims,” said Gov. Gregoire. “As we welcome these people as guests of Washington state, we must be ready to address the very wide array of needs they have.”

Gov. Gregoire formally proclaimed a state of emergency to pave the way for efficiently administering the hosting process. The proclamation enables state agencies to make expenditures and use resources on an emergency basis. Washington state agencies; King, Pierce and Snohomish counties; and community relief organizations are working closely together in planning for the hosting operation.

Gov. Gregoire has also sent a letter to President Bush requesting federal disaster assistance to support the state effort. If granted, the request would make the state eligible to be reimbursed for costs such as guest reception and processing, crisis counseling, unemployment assistance, schooling and transportation needs and legal assistance.

Since the primary need is for money, people who want to help are asked to donate to “Washington Cares.” A fund established by the Governor in partnership with Washington Mutual. Donations can be made to any Washington Mutual branch location in Washington State. People in Washington who want to donate clothing and other items are asked to work through the Goodwill, Salvation Army and the other organizations that are equipped to receive donations and are a part of Washington State’s effort.