Local plans family-to-family help

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After watching hours of news coverage about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Linda Laughlin woke up Thursday morning with an idea.

She envisioned a family-to-family effort that coordinated donations of shelter, airline miles and cash contributions. She had one goal in mind: To bring Gulf Coast families who need temporary housing to Steamboat Springs.

"If we can help even five families, I think it's going to be worth it," Laughlin said Thursday.

The families would not have to pay any money to stay here for as long as they need, Laughlin said.

The Steamboat Springs woman does not have any connections to the Gulf Coast and has no experience with grass-roots efforts. She and her family moved to the area from Maine only a year ago. But, Laughlin, a mother and a former business owner, knows she needs to help in any way she can.

She still is working out the details of the grass-roots effort, called Steamboat Springs Gulf Coast Relief. Routt County United Way will act as the organization's fiscal agent.

One of the group's first steps is to determine how many Steamboat residents are willing to help.

She's asking residents and businesses to call or e-mail if they want to donate housing, frequent-flyer miles or money. The frequent-flyer miles would be used to help get people to and from Steamboat, and cash donations would help provide food, clothing and other necessary supplies.

Those who are interested in donating a room in their homes are encouraged to contact Laughlin and tell her how many people could be housed and how long they could stay.

But, she said, Gulf Coast families will need more than just a place to sleep.

"They're going to need love. They're going to be distraught," Laughlin said. "This is a traumatic life crisis for these people."

Many hurricane victims have been left with nothing. Some might have relatives to stay with, but others might not have any place to turn, Laughlin said.

"This thing is so huge and is going to require so much effort on the part of so many people in this country," Laughlin said.

To make a donation or offer help, call 870-6280 or e-mail ssgulfcoastrelief.net.

Checks should be made out to Routt County United Way, with a note stating that the money is for Steamboat Springs Gulf Coast Relief. Checks can be sent to Steamboat Springs Gulf Coast Relief in care of Routt County United Way, P.O. Box 774005, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477, or in care of Linda Laughlin, P.O. Box 774971, Steamboat Springs CO 80477.

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