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Thursday, September 8, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Microsoft quickly builds database to help locate hurricane evacuees

Microsoft and the American Red Cross launched a Web site this week to help friends and family members affected by Hurricane Katrina locate each other. The site, which can be reached at either Katrinasafe.org or Katrinasafe.com, received more than 1,000 inquiries within the first 24 hours of going online.

Although database Web sites of this size usually take months to build, Microsoft employees in Redmond constructed it in about four days.

The Red Cross is urging operators of similar sites to feed information to this site. The list also can be updated and checked by calling a toll-free hotline, 877-LOVED-1S (568-3317).

Microsoft has dispatched three satellite-communication trucks — outfitted with computers and Internet connections — to Baton Rouge, La., and Mississippi to collect evacuee information for the site.

Donate unused miles

Alaska Air Group and Bank of America have launched a frequent-flier donation program to benefit the American Red Cross.

Frequent-flier members of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air can donate amounts of 500 miles or more by e-mailing red.cross@alaskaair.com or calling 800-654-5669. Members will need to give their plan number and full name in addition to the amount they want to pledge.

The miles will be used to move people involved in the Katrina relief effort.

For every 5,000 miles donated, Alaska Air Group and Bank of America will each donate an additional 1,000 miles.

A happy ending

After a never-ending wait of worrying, the phone call arrived Monday morning in Seattle.

Will you accept a collect call from Vernon French?

" 'You betcha!' I told the operator," said Lynn French. His brother Vernon had told his family he intended to sit out Katrina in his New Orleans apartment. His mom, another brother, a sister and a niece evacuated and landed in Laurel, Miss. But Vernon's fate was unknown — until Monday.

"He said he had food, running water, no lights and no flooding," Lynn French said. "He's a taxi driver in New Orleans. He said his cab is underwater but 'I'm alive.' "

The Seattle Times reported Saturday about French's missing brother.

From his home in Seattle, Lynn French, born and raised in New Orleans, has been a long-distance relocation agent for his family. His mom and three others are living in a Mississippi motel but French wanted to move them into a rental home in Monroe, La.

He found one, through a woman at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle who called her hometown.

And just like that, a community stepped forward.

First A.M.E. pitches in

Members of Seattle's First African Methodist Episcopal Church have raised $10,000 so far for hurricane relief efforts.

The Rev. Carey Anderson said more than half the congregation has friends and relatives in the Gulf Coast area.

Church members are discussing with the national denomination how they can help A.M.E. congregations affected by Katrina. At least eight A.M.E. churches in New Orleans are under water, Anderson said.

Animal rescue

Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal-rescue shelter in Sultan, Snohomish County, is seeking volunteers, including a veterinarian and vet technician, to care for animals in the hurricane-devastated areas.

The shelter is looking for anyone who can leave with two days' notice, can swim and pay his or her own way. Volunteers would work directly with the University of Louisiana Veterinary Medical College, tending to and rescuing stranded animals.

The shelter is also seeking donations of veterinary supplies, frequent-flier miles and cash to help offset traveling costs. Contact Susan Michaels at susan@pasadosafehaven.org. Donations can be sent to the shelter at P.O. Box 171, Sultan, WA 98294.

Day of Giving

Seattle plans a Day of Giving on Sept. 15. Stations where people can donate money will be set up in city buildings and in other popular areas such as Pacific Place and University Village shopping centers, said Marianne Bichsel, spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Nickels.

Donors will have the option of contributing to any of four organizations providing relief: the American Red Cross, Mercy Corps, Habitat for Humanity and America's Second Harvest.

Compiled by staff reporters Vanessa Renée Casavant, Janet I. Tu and Florangela Davila.

Vanessa Renée Casavant: 206-464-2761 vcasavant@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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