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CE Industry Aids Hurricane Relief Efforts

The CE and major appliance industries have rallied to support relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Both vendors and retailers have responded to the devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with cash donations to disaster relief agencies, truckloads of supplies and armies of employees to assist humanitarian efforts.

According to Jeff Joseph, communications and strategic relationships VP for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), CE manufacturers’ efforts include:

  • Employee donation match programs at Harmon, JVC, LG and Sony;
  • A $500,000 donation from Kodak to the American Red Cross, plus equipment for aerial flyovers and structural assessments;
  • $1 million each from Matsushita’s Panasonic unit and Philips for disaster relief;
  • An immediate $500,000 cash contribution from Sony Corp. to the Red Cross

Other vendors who want to help are waiting to see where the most need exists, Joseph said.

CEA itself has made a $10,000 contribution to the American Red Cross, and will send the relief agency two dollars for every dollar donated by employees during a 30-day period. The trade group is also soliciting handheld, battery-powered TVs and radios from members for distribution to relief agencies, and is supporting an online job bank for the travel and tourism industry,

Also assisting is XM Satellite Radio, which has launched two 24-hour nationwide channels. Red Cross Radio (XM channel 248) provides information for victims and relief workers, and an Emergency Alert Channel (channel 247) provides status reports on affected areas. XM is also donating radios to shelters and aid stations.

In addition, TWICE’s parent company, Reed Business Information, has pledged $25,000 to Red Cross relief efforts and is collecting donations from employees.

Elsewhere, Cingular Wireless set up free emergency calling stations at company-owned in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and SpeakerCraft’s president Jeremy Burkhardt, along with Nortek’s Home Technology Group, formed the Rebel Waltz Relief Fund, which has funneled tens of thousands of dollars worth of emergency supplies into afflicted areas.

Appliance manufacturers are also heeding the call. Whirlpool, for one, is donating up to $1 million in cash, services and products to relief efforts, including refrigerators, washers and dryers.

On the retail side, Wal-Mart, Sears Holdings, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Circuit City and Best Buy’s Children’s Foundation each pledged up to $1 million toward disaster relief. Best Buy is also offering its employees the resources of the company’s Schulze Family Fund, and Home Depot mobilized thousands of staffers from across the country to man its Gulf area stores.

Wal-Mart later donated an additional $16 million in cash and has forwarded over $6.5 million in collected donations to relief efforts. The company also leveraged its considerable supply chain and logistical capabilities to provide some 2,500 truckloads of water and emergency supplies to Katrina victims, and has guaranteed jobs for all displaced employees.

Sears said it is also sending emergency shipments of clothes, shoes and bedding to the region, is offering free flat-tire repairs at its local Auto Centers, and is accepting American Red Cross vouchers and client assistance cards as payment at its area Sears and Kmart stores.

Office Depot has further funneled over $17 million in donations to disaster relief; is providing $13 million in water, batteries, and office and school supplies through its partnership with Feed the Children; has offered New Orleans city officials the entire contents of five stores; is distributing 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to area children; and is matching employee contributions to the Office Depot Disaster Relief Foundation.

RadioShack is also offering hurricane victims free Internet access at all of its stores through October.

Meanwhile, D&H Distributing is donating the equivalent of 1 percent of its customers’ total sales from Sept. 12 to the Red Cross — contribution expected to amount to tens of thousands of dollars.

Separately, dealers, consultants and vendors interested in offering non-monetary assistance to affected retailers can contact NARDA president Tom Drake at (630) 953-8990, ext. 612, or by e-mail at [email protected]. — Additional reporting by Amy Gilroy and Steve Smith