Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back from Houston

I just got back from Houston the other day, and am suffering from an adrenaline hangover that started the minute I got off the plane in SF. It's incredible how far away I now feel after being with my family and experiencing their displacement for a few days.

Like I'm sure so many of you have been doing, I've been running on empty for the past week, trying to help out the relief efforts in any way possible. I have placed it at the top of my priorities, and have taken actions and made decisions that I never even thought of in the BK - Before Katrina. And I am as fortunate as anyone I know from New Orleans.

I am fortunate to have a family who I love so dearly, and that I don't think I know any of the 10,000 people who are decomposing in the toxic floodwaters that remain in my hometown.
I am so proud of my mother who never left the bedsides of her patients for six days after the storm, while the National Guard secured the hospital from looters as they went without AC or plumbing for days. Hope you had a good birthday Mom - now get back to work for 5 more days.

I am fortunate to have friends willing to help me under any circumstances and willing to sacrifice so much for people they hardly know. Cameron, Anne, Tito, Ribka, Zach...I can't describe in words how much you did for my family in Houston this weekend. I am so blessed to have great friends like you. You helped me make a difference in the lives of the people who are most important to me, and then you kept trying to give more and more. Anyone would be so lucky to be your friend, and I'm very glad to be in that number.

I am fortunate to have a place to live, an income, clothes to wear, pictures to treasure and food to eat. I know many of you in New Orleans have none of these things, and even more are missing one or two items from that list. While I have not been able to get in touch with some of you since the storm, it doesn't mean I have not tried. Shoot, I still can't call anyone in the 504 area code without hearing "All circuits are busy now; please try your call again later" - I feel like I could recognize that guy if I saw him on the street.

My efforts to bring awareness to this situation will continue and change as the conditions New Orleans change. Right now my focus is to further develop a few ideas that many raise funds for the rebuilding efforts. Despite what much of the country thinks of the leaders of our city and our state, it is the people of this city, the most familial and caring people in our country, who will demonstrate how the gravest of adversities can be overcome. The people in New Orleans have been described as "freakishly strong and passionate" and now it's time for them to show the rest of the country just what New Orleans is all about.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Two New Ideas

It's late, I haven't had a good night's sleep in a week, and I leave for Houston in four hours...but who am I to complain? I've worked alot harder before for causes I believed alot less in. I just came up with two ideas that could potentially raise money and awareness for the relief and recovery efforts.

1. The Fleur-de-lis car decal

I'm sure all of you have seen thousands of yellow ribbons on the backs of cars in the support of our troops overseas. Why don't we take that idea and extend it to the unmistakeable symbol of our great city (and my mother's favorite jewelry design)....the Fleur-de-lis. I don't know who was behind the original yellow ribbon effort, but it looks like is selling boatloads of them, and they even have a fundraising section on their website. Just another idea that I encourage someone to explore.

2. The Online Poker Scheme

Whether or not you agree with the pervasiveness of online gambling in our nation, it is a fact that online poker is one of the fastest-growing and profitable businesses on the web. I'm sure these websites' volumes are down since the disaster hit, since people are probably finding it harder to justify leisurely gambling. However, if we convinced the poker companies to start publicizing charity tournaments (where a percentage of the pot went to the relief efforts), they may be able to make up in volume what they would be giving to those in need. Three of the largest poker sites are Ultimatebet, Party Poker and PokerStars. I encourage someone to at least contact these companies about the idea.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Letter published today in the Palo Alto Weekly:

Dear Peninsula Residents,

I am a relatively new import to the Bay Area via New Orleans. I work for Stanford Management Company here in Menlo Park. The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has been very upsetting for all of us. Personally, I have family and friends who are coping with the disaster first hand, and to many of them I am their only link to the outside world, as their communication lines to each other have disintegrated. In the same manner, I am the lone contact to New Orleans, a place I love dearly, for many people I work with and have gotten to know in the Bay Area. This is why I have taken on the responsibility of making people more aware of the crisis and encouraging people all over the country to support the relief efforts in creative ways.

While the easiest and fastest way to provide help is to donate to national agencies whose relief efforts are already in place, many people I have spoken with are interested in helping in more direct and focused ways. I would like to encourage the communities on the Peninsula to begin fundraising campaigns for specific communities in the hardest hit areas of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. An “adopt-a-community” program would facilitate local efforts to rebuild schools, homes and infrastructure in individual areas left destroyed by this catastrophe. Furthermore, I would like to work with you and those affected communities to develop means of following the progress of these communities and their residents on a close, personal and regular basis. I anticipate working with local officials throughout the Peninsula to coordinate and enhance this program, which is still in a conception stage.

To get a personal glimpse into the crisis in New Orleans and the recovery assistance effort I am undertaking, please access my weblog at Since I just entered the world of weblogging this week due to this disaster, I can attest that it is simple and easy to use. Feel free to contact me via email with ideas you may have, or add your thoughts to the blog itself. We are all in this together. Thank you for your time.

Keith Schneider