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Katrina relief suitcases heading out

The first several hundred of about 1,500 suitcases of clothing for Hurricane Katrina evacuees were loaded onto a truck Monday at True Bethel Baptist Church.

The prepacked luggage should reach House of the Lord Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., later this week, said Teresa Bakerx, who coordinated the collection. The Mississippi church is looking after thousands of New Orleans residents displaced by the storm.

The initial load also will include 28 shipping cases of donated sneakers and nine cases of new clothes. The sneakers were given by Ark Wholesale and the boxed apparel by Marshall's Department Store, Bakerx said. Shipping is being handled without charge by David Freight Management of Buffalo.

The remaining suitcases, which hold items for men, women and children of particular sizes, will leave over the coming weeks, she said.

The suitcase drive was the brainchild of Jerome S. McIntee, a retired Buffalo police lieutenant who lives in Florida during the winter. He learned while taking part in the Hurricane Andrew relief effort in 1992 that bags of unsorted clothes do not always reach the victims of disasters. Sending suitcases custom-packed with clothes to fit individuals would be more effective, McIntee decided.

He and church leaders were astonished by the response. Donated suitcases have filled two annexes on the True Bethel property at 907 E. Ferry St. and are still coming in despite posted notices that the collection has stopped, Bakerx said.

The church also collected about $11,000 in cash for Katrina victims. "True Bethel reaches out to the community a lot, but we've never seen anything of this magnitude," she said.

Meanwhile, firefighters in Fort Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., at McIntee's urging, have collected and shipped about 700 suitcases of clothing. McIntee, who lives in East Aurora during the summer, is a member of the Florida volunteer fire company.

Members of Buffalo's Irish music community will hold a Katrina benefit concert from 6 p.m. to midnight Oct. 7 in the Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Road.

Penny Whiskey, a band formed by former Kilbrannan members Kirk S. McWhorter and Tim Leonard, will perform along with the Dustmen, Kindred, the Leftovers, Iad Fein and the children's orchestra of Amhran O'Ciar School of Celtic Music, and dancers from Rince Na Tiarna School of Irish Dance.

A $5 donation will be requested to help hurricane victims. Call 316-3959 or e-mail brian@thedustmenband.com for further information.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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