Companies Give Millions to Katrina Relief Efforts

Pharmaceutical companies rounded up much-needed medicine, water suppliers loaded trucks with thirst-quenching cargo and companies from petroleum giants to beer makers pitched in millions in cash and products Wednesday to help communities battered by Hurricane Katrina.

The efforts to collect money and goods to help the Gulf Coast rebuild gathered momentum Wednesday as officials continued assessing the damage from one of the nation's worst natural disasters.

American Red Cross (search) spokeswoman Sarah Marchetti said at least 30 companies had made donations by Wednesday morning, and the number was expected to climb.

"They've been pouring in," she said.

In Indianapolis, drug maker Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) prepared to send 40,000 vials of refrigerated insulin to patients in the Southeast, along with at least $1 million in cash to the American Red Cross.

"We're poised to ship as soon as we get the OK," Lilly spokesman Edward Sagebiel said.

Drug maker Wyeth (WYE) of Madison, N.J., planned to donate antibiotics and nonprescription pain relievers, health care giant Johnson & Johnson provided $250,000 worth of kits containing toothbrushes, soap and shampoo, as well as pallets of pain relievers and wound care supplies. Drug maker Merck & Co. (MRK) planned to send antibiotics and hepatitis A vaccines to protect those facing contaminated waters.

"Our commitment is open-ended," said Merck spokeswoman Janet Skidmore.

Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories Inc. is giving $2 million cash and at least $2 million in nutritional and medical products.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (search) said initial corporate donations to the relief efforts could total more than $100 million.

Hank Goldstein, chairman of Giving USA (search) in Glenview, Ill., said individual and corporate donations combined could reach $1 billion.

But he predicted the corporate relief effort would be smaller than those recorded after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the tsunami that ravaged Asia in December.

"This kind of money comes quick and comes early and then falls off fast after that," Goldstein said. "It will abate along with the water."

Donations Wednesday already had reached well into the millions and included $5 million from Chevron Corp., $3 million each from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup, $2 million from Pfizer and $1 million from insurer State Farm.

The Walt Disney Co. contributed $2.5 million, $1 million of which will go to the American Red Cross and the rest for rebuilding efforts and volunteer centers helping affected communities.

The contributions also included 50 trucks donated by Nissan North America to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, more than 825,000 cans of water supplied by Anheuser-Busch (BUD) in St. Louis and 3,000 walkie talkie-type phones for emergency personnel from Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) Kellogg Co. (K) of Battle Creek, Mich., sent seven truckloads of crackers and cookies to hard-hit areas. General Motors Corp. (GM) also planned to donate 25 cars and trucks to the Red Cross.

Qwest Communications International Inc. will send 2,000 long-distance calling cards so those affected could call loved ones, said spokesman Michael Dunne. He said Denver-based Qwest also has given the Red Cross $230,000 to help train responders.

Home improvement companies Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW) pledged cash and manpower, while Culligan International of Northbrook, Ill., sent five truckloads of water to residents in Alabama and Mississippi.

The water, part of a larger, 28-truck convoy organized by the Missouri-based Convoy of Hope, was traveling at 10 mph through Mississippi.

"It's very treacherous," said Mike Ennis, director of strategic initiatives at Convoy of Hope.

Office Depot (ODP) of Delray Beach, Fla., donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts. Officials announced Wednesday the company also would give the contents of its five New Orleans stores, valued at $4 million, to New Orleans officials to use as they recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Spokesman Brian Levine said the contents include items such as printers, paper, cartridges, pens and notebooks. What might be available and its condition were unclear.

City officials on Wednesday commandeered equipment from a looted Office Depot. During a state of emergency, authorities have broad powers to take private supplies and buildings for their use.

But Levine couldn't say what condition the items might be in given the flooding that has ravaged the city.

"I couldn't tell you if it's completely flooded, a little flooded, or not," he said. "Our position is we're donating the contents of the entire store."