Bestselling writer John Grisham (search) and his wife will contribute $5 million to a relief fund they established this week at a Tupelo bank to help Mississippians rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

"We don't normally publicize gifts. It's something we keep extremely private," Grisham said Friday during a conference call with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (search) and officials with BancorpSouth.

"But in these very, very rare circumstances — this tragic time — we hope the gift will get some attention and inspire other people to contribute money and help our fellow Mississippians on the Gulf Coast," said Grisham, who maintains a home in Oxford, Miss.

The Grishams will deposit the money at BancorpSouth in Tupelo. The bank will then handle all money for the effort, named the Rebuild the Coast Fund Organization.

Bank chairman and CEO Aubrey Patterson (search) said during the call that he is "absolutely convinced it will stimulate others to reach deep in their pockets" and make a contribution.

Grisham, a former state legislator, said the fund will assist Mississippi residents and businesses.

"When you make charitable contributions, you realize you can't save the world, so you find a small area you can go into and hopefully do some good and do it with your own money and you're own sweat and you see the results," he said. "You can't spread yourself too thin."

The next step, Grisham said, is to hire a small staff to evaluate the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of requests for aid. The couple hopes to initially employ coast residents who have lost their jobs and are familiar with the area.

He termed the process of evaluating people's needs a huge challenge and said that it will take time.

"I wonder how many of these homes are uninsured, how many are insured, and how big a gap there is between insurance and loss, he said. "Let's help plug those gaps."