Oak Park resident Bill FitzGerald is sending something back to New Orleans, the city to which so many of the musicians and music played at his nightclub trace their roots.
FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn, will host a relief concert next week to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Already slated to appear are the Chicago Salty Dogs, Red Rose Ragtime Band, Chicago Cajun Aces, Professor John, Buddy Charles, BS Brass Band, Otis Clay and more.
"Many of [the musicians] were anxious to do this and asked me to do something," Fitzgerald said.
The Thursday, Sept. 15, concert will ask for $10 minimum donations, all of which will go to the American Red Cross. A portion of food (cajun food is the focus of FitzGerald's menu) and drink sales will also be donated.
"It's good timing, and it's fresh on people's minds," FitzGerald said of the concert's timing.
The hurricane's effects extended directly to the club last Friday night, when Louisiana native Tab Benoit canceled his appearance. FitzGerald did not know exactly why, but said Benoit has family in Houma, a marsh town about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. Benoit was not in Houma during the hurricane, but FitzGerald suspected he needed to stay to help with relief efforts. The singer/guitarist's agent said he was no longer in cell phone range leading up to the appearance.
Val Camilletti of Val's halla Records, 723 1/2 South Blvd., visits New Orleans regularly and said last Friday she was too discombobulated by the hurricane's effects to have planned a relief effort.
"I can't even wrap my brain around it," Camilletti said.
She hopes to help with the FitzGerald's benefit if she can.
Firefighters collecting donations
Firefighters from Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and North Riverside will be collecting money this Friday, Sept. 9 to help the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. On-duty and off-duty fire personnel will be at major intersections in those towns from 3 till 6 p.m. soliciting donations that will be earmarked for the Salvation Army's relief efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi. Plans are still being finalized regarding specific locations, but all four departments plan to have both on and off duty personnel out collecting.
Forest Park firefighter Amy Strong, who came up with the fundraiser idea last Friday after four frustrating days of watching events on television, said that people wishing to help could also drop cash or checks?#34;made out to The Salvation Army at the Forest Park firehouse.
Strong said she hopes the effort will raise at least $10,000, with plans to have a cashier's check cut by early next week and immediately sent to the Salvation Army. "People need so much stuff ... at least it will help some. Maybe we can just do a little," she said.
Or better yet, a lot. Strong noted that Forest Park alone collected $8,000 in the wake of 911 four years ago.
Locals open homes to victims
Fourteen Oak Parkers had offered their homes to hurricane victims through the website www.hurricanehousing.org, including this offer: "I am a single mom with a daughter in middle school. I will happily house a mother/daughter of any age. I could also take in school-age children and provide for them while parents begin rebuilding their lives/homes. My home is a small bungalow in a quiet neighborhood, close to public transportation and the city of Chicago. The guest room is in my finished basement, so you must be able to cope with stairs. Sorry?#34;no smokers or pets! My heart goes out to all of you who are suffering because of this disaster. Best wishes to all of you."
Nola's Cup runneth over
Jennifer O'Heir, co-owner of Nola's Cup coffeehouse at Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren Street, has hosted a couple of out-of-town guests for the past week. A couple of her friends from New Orleans have been camping out at her place while they figure out what's next. O'Heir said they've made arrangements for clothing and have a couple of leads on an apartment. Word is their house is flooded and their business (a tapas bar) has been looted.
Customers filled a donations jar at the coffeehouse with $600, so they're doing OK, O'Heir said. Rather than focus attention on themselves, she said they preferred to put the word out that a lot of people are much worse off.
Suzanne Lavin, a volunteer at the Economy Shop, South Boulevard and Grove Avenue, points out that their first sale of the year is tomorrow, Sept. 8, for anyone else who is hosting a temporary guest from down south. Economy Shop features everything from clothes to housewares.
If you're looking for an agency to send monetary donations, here are a few for starters. Remember to specify "Hurricane Katrina Relief."
? American Red Cross, PO Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013, redcross.org
? Catholic Charities USA, PO Box 25168, Alexandria, Va. 22313, catholiccharities.org
? Church World Service, Hurricane Katria Response, PO Box 968, Elkhart, Ind. 46515, churchworldservice.org
? Jewish Federation, Katrina Relief Fund, c/o Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, 1 S. Franklin St., Room 625, Chicago 60606, juf.org/katrina
? Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCA Disaster Response, PO Box 71764, Chicago 60694, elca.org/disaster
? Salvation Army, Disaster Relief, PO Box 4857, Jackson, Miss. 39296, salvationarmyusa.org
?#34;Compiled by Drew Carter, Bill Dwyer,
and Ken Trainor