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WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 /PRNewswire/ — Operation HOPE (OHI), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal and corporate leaders today issued a public "call for action and support" of Project Restore HOPE, the nation’s first official economic recovery initiative for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Managed through OHI’s emergency preparation and recovery division HOPE
Coalition America, Project Restore HOPE will provide free financial counseling
and resources, economic assistance and budgeting advice to hurricane victims
through one-on-one counseling in disaster-affected communities, at FEMA
disaster recovery centers, online and over the phone from recently launched
call center facilities in Poway, Calif., and Dallas, Texas.
    John Bryant, founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, said this is the next
necessary stage of recovery for hurricane victims.
    "As victims recover from the loss of loved ones, troubled health, and the
destruction of homes, workplaces, automobiles and their general ways of life,
they are now faced with a challenge to survive financially, a challenge that
may seem impossible to many and has a much longer road toward resolution,"
Bryant said. "We have no choice but to help these victims recover economically
by providing resources, education and general financial counsel, things many
of these victims have never had."
    HOPE Coalition America is currently recruiting part-and full-time "HOPE
Corps volunteers" with banking, insurance, credit union, finance and
accounting backgrounds to provide financial counseling and support at:

     * Financial Help Line call centers in Poway, Calif., and Dallas Texas

     * FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Los Angeles, Louisiana, Alabama and

     * On-the-ground sites-at locations currently housing evacuees around the

     * "Virtual Help Centers" (case managers who can provide assistance from
       any location via the Internet or phone)

    Financial assistance to be provided by HOPE Corps volunteers to hurricane
victims includes, but is not limited to:

     * Help obtaining lost or destroyed financial documents and personal

     * Emergency budget guidance

     * Emergency credit management

     * Assistance with deferring mortgage payments

     * Assistance with working with creditors

     * Referrals to government or private agencies for loans and financial

     * Insurance claims assistance

    The organization is also requesting support for the production and
dissemination of the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK), a federal
document offering easy to understand step-by-step directions and tips to
protect personal assets and finances and limit liabilities when emergencies or
disasters hit.  EFFAK is currently available to victims online at
http://www.operationhope.org and through FEMA (listed as FEMA publication
    David Garratt of FEMA supports the efforts of HOPE Coalition America,
citing it as a much-needed partnership to support low-wealth and urban
communities affected by Hurricane Katrina.
    "This nation, specifically the Gulf states, have endured two of the worst
disasters in our history. Along with the partnerships to provide food and
temporary housing to the victims, we must help these victims get their sense
of economic security back," said David Garratt, Acting Division Director of
FEMA’s Recovery Division.
    "FEMA has formed a relationship with Operation HOPE and HOPE Coalition
because they offer a unique and much-needed set of services, aimed at limiting
the economic impact on individuals affected by these disasters. This
partnership is one that will greatly benefit many of the urban and lower-
income victims who can rely on Operation HOPE and its staff for sound
financial advice and direction."
    Project Restore HOPE has launched with the help of several generous
corporate contributions, including $500,000 from First American Corp. toward
the call centers and virtual help center programs and $500,000 from E-Trade
Financial to assist uninsured and underinsured homeowners and families who can
not afford security deposits and other costs associated with renting new
    "We are honored to be a partner in Operation Restore Hope," said Landon V.
Taylor, Vice President, First American Corporation. "The families that are
suffering from the impact of Katrina are our fellow Americans. We must stand
by them."
    "We continue to be astounded by the devastation caused by Hurricane
Katrina and by the work that will be required to rebuild cities, neighborhoods
and most importantly lives," said Arlen Gelbard, Chief Administrative Officer,
E*TRADE FINANCIAL Corporation.  "Through its partnership with Operation Hope,
E*TRADE FINANCIAL is extending $500,000 in home recovery grants to those
affected by Katrina, to cover lapses in homeowners’ and flood insurance
policies, or to begin to make the necessary repairs to their homes and their
    Other key contributors and partners cited by Operation HOPE and present at
the press conference included Microsoft Corp., who donated new software to
help manage the virtual help center program, Trans Union, Bank of America, the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Thrift Supervision and the
National Credit Union Administration, as well as community partners Urban
Financial Services Coalition, Black Leadership Forum, National Bankers
Association and National Association of Black Accountants.
    Bryant extended appreciation to all current contributors, but also issued
a reminder that these contributions will only take the initiative so far.
    "The goal is to get the victims of Katrina stabilized and on their feet
again financially, a challenge which will take years, possibly decades of
education, counsel and resources to overcome," Bryant said.   "The experience
base of our volunteer staff enables us to help disaster vic
tims quickly
address and minimize the loss due to Katrina’s devastation, but our resources
can only take us so far. I hereby request every able American individual,
organization and corporation to help us see through the economic recovery of
the poor and underserved victims of Hurricane Katrina-through volunteerism and
financial support."
    For more information on how to be a part of or contribute to Project
Restore HOPE, visit http://www.operationhope.org, or call 1-877-388-HOPE.

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