When Hurricane Katrina hit, Mississippi-based Hope Haven found its entire complex submerged in 6 feet of water, leaving its buildings either water damaged or destroyed. Director Terry Latham says that while the organization, a 10-year-old shelter for abused and neglected children located about a mile-and-a-half from the Gulf of Mexico, had the money to fix the buildings, it also had 12 to 15 children to care for and no furniture.
“We were sitting there saying we have nowhere to turn to for help,” Latham says. “Then we got a call from America Responds With Love on my cell phone.”
The voice on the other end was that of Richard McDonough, founder of America Responds With Love Inc., a nonprofit organization that’s been in existence since 1989, providing emergency housing to people in need through the Hotels/Motels In Partnership Program. McDonough told Latham his organization wanted to help Hope Haven and the other four shelters destroyed during the hurricane get the furniture and other supplies they needed. They would do it through RespondWithLove.org, a philanthropic Web site launched in early 2005. At the time, McDonough, frustrated by what he saw as systematic problems keeping people from getting the resources they needed after catastrophic events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, decided to create a way by which overlooked, often local, organizations that “don’t fit in a nice cubbyhole” can get the goods they need to carry out their missions.
“We made the decision we were no longer going to wait. We would create the system — which is what the Web site is — where the agencies in the field who need the resources are able to get the resources they need,” McDonough says. “Not just what people think they need but what they truly need.