Americans' Volunteer Efforts Surge in Aftermath of Terrorist Strikes

The terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., not only spurred Americans to give millions of dollars to relief and recovery efforts, the Wall Street Journal reports, they also spawned an outpouring of creative volunteerism dedicated to helping those affected by the events of September 11.

After Chuck Robinson, a retired firefighter and avid fisherman living in California, heard that food was needed for rescue workers in New York, he relayed a message over the Internet to fellow fishermen. In just two days, Robinson collected 2,500 pounds of vacuum-packed fish, which led to the creation of an informal charity called Fish for America. In the weeks since then, Robinson has received an offer from a lawyer to incorporate the organization as a nonprofit and started building a Web site. Still searching for a way to move the truckloads of fish to New York, Robinson says that some of it will be served at a fundraising dinner for the victims in October in Newport Beach.

In Annandale, Virginia, four sisters whose father works at the Pentagon have raised $20,000 for the Red Cross in two weekends by washing cars. A public relations firm in Washington, D.C., noticed their efforts and created a Web site — http://www.washamerica.org — to help kids across the nation raise money by holding car washes.

And in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, restaurant owner Marlene Stuart helped organize an "All American Cookout" to raise money — more than $50,000 — for the families of missing men from the New York Fire Department's Rescue Co. No. 1.

"In a moment of collective grief and pain, instead of being immobilized, we have a society of doers," said James Austin, a Harvard Business School professor who studies social enterprise. "The number of individual and small-group acts are really extraordinary in the aggregate...."

Kelly Greene. "Volunteerism in U.S. Surges Following Terrorist Attacks" Wall Street Journal 09/26/2001.