Oak Park resident Rebecca Brislain is the former executive director of a food bank in Colorado Springs for America’s Second Harvest, a national network of over 200 food banks, which partners with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief organizations following natural catastrophes.

Rebecca also has training in disaster relief from the Emergency Management Institute, so even though she’s now an independent consultant, when Katrina struck, she volunteered her services with Second Harvest, coordinating volunteers to answer phones, help food bank volunteers find transportation to the affected areas, and develop forms to help track evacuees.

“Whatever was needed,” she said.

The response of the Second Harvest network, she described as “tremendous.” Thus far they’ve sent over 500 semis of food to the South. Since many of the local food banks were impacted by the storm, some trucks have to off-load food directly to the victims.

Brislain and her husband, Al, who is senior vice president of member services at Second Harvest’s national headquarters in Chicago, moved to Oak Park in 2002. “Second Harvest is one of the most efficient charities in the country,” she said. “I’m really proud to be part of that effort.”

And speaking of efficiency, she understands that people want to make tangible donations at this time in the form of food or clothing, but the best way to have an impact, she says, is through financial donations. The logistics of getting material to the storm area are too great and too chaotic. Working through established networks like Second Harvest is much more effective.

“We’re in the best position to send things that can be used immediately,” she said, because they have the contacts set up with local charitable groups.

Those who wish to make financial donations can call the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 773/247-3663 or go to www.secondharvest.org or chicagosfoodbank.org.

?#34;Ken Trainor

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