Welles: Helping is a way of life

Feds are predisposed to donate their time and money to worthy causes.

FirstGov.gov's tsunami resources

Helping others is a way of life for many federal employees. So it should not be a surprise that federal employees are on the job working and donating money out of their own pockets to help the millions of people who have suffered from the devastating tsunami in Southern Asia.

The U.S. Agency for International Development's Disaster

Assistance Response Team, the Coast Guard and U.S. military forces are providing logistical support and supplies for tsunami relief. Some 150 USAID officials and more than 2,400 military employees are helping in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Coast Guard officials sent a relief team of 42, two C-130 airplanes and the Coast Guard Cutter Munro. More than 15,000 military workers are involved in relief support, with 26 ships and 96 aircraft bringing food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile, federal workers, who already are exceeding last year's contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign, are donating to tsunami relief. Office of Personnel Management officials authorized special workplace solicitations of federal employees for a one-time cash or check donation for tsunami relief. They made a similar authorization following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Within one week, according to OPM's initial reports, the departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, State, Housing and Urban Development, Education and other agencies responded with special activities to raise awareness of the need for tsunami disaster relief.

Many agencies outside the Washington, D.C., area also are participating, including Internal Revenue Service branches in New York and Massachusetts and the Federal Correctional Institute in Texas.

The National Science Foundation's James Powlik wrote a novel called "The Wave" in 2001, which tells a story eerily similar to recent events. He has made the paperback edition available for purchase by NSF staff with all of the proceeds, plus matching funds from the publisher, supporting the tsunami relief effort.

State government and municipal employees are also contributing to the relief work. "The tsunami disaster resonates deeply among us at the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees," said AFSCME president Gerald McEntee. Federation officials are donating $10,000 to tsunami relief efforts.

"We're reaching out to our fellow workers across the globe who've had their livelihoods and entire way of life taken from them by this devastating event," McEntee said.

"Federal workers are predisposed to want to help and make a difference," said John Palguta, vice president for policy and research at the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C.

He cites the organization's research report titled "A New Call to Service for an Age of Savvy Altruism," which found that people who want to work for the federal government see it as a place to make a difference.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

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