NEW ORLEANS -- People across the country are trying to lend a hand with the cleanup of the oil spill.
But many are left feeling helpless because according to volunteer coordinators, there's not much hands-on work available because BP is coordinating paid workers for the clean up.
It has locals doing just about anything they can think of to help out.
“It's heartbreaking. You know, it starts to bring you to tears,” said t-shirt shop co-owner Anne Warren.
She said she didn’t know what else to do.
“When all of this began I think we, like a lot of people, just felt kind of helpless and wanted to help,” she said.
So, her Oak Street shop, Skip and Whistle, is doing what they do best, making T-shirts. “We thought of this as a way to gain exposure on a cause and raise money at the same time,” Warren said.
$10 of the $25 shirts will go to help with wildlife impacted by the oil spill. And other t-shirts are popping up all over town, a trend that says more than their catchy messages.
“What can you do? We wanted to do something,” Warren said.
“Unfortunately, there's not a lot to do. There's not a lot for the volunteers to do. A lot of it takes a lot of training,” said Cathy Puett, CEO of Hands On New Orleans.
The group is the non-profit that coordinates volunteer groups in the metro area in the event of a disaster, something Katrina taught them well.
“We get about five to 20 calls a day looking for that type of thing from people who are from out of town,” Puett said.
Seeing images like oil-soaked pelicans and beaches on television is leading thousands to want to get their hands dirty and help.
The Louisiana Serve Commission said they have 6,000 people in their database who are looking to help with the cleanup. Many of them get referred to Hands On New Orleans.
“We have had some people who have actually gotten mad at us. People who are frustrated with us but what they don't understand is we're really limited by again, safety issues, but also by BP,” Puett said.
WWL-TV reporter Katie Moore called BP's volunteer line. They took her personal information and said someone would be in touch, but that the only opportunities available are administrative or picking up trash on a beach before the oil gets there.
Projects that allow people to get down to the oiled coast, like a coastal mapping effort, are surprisingly rare.
“We have six slots available,” Puett said.
Some are satisfied donating money. The Greater New Orleans Foundation started a gulf coast oil spill fund to help local fishermen.
“Since that time, it's been a month or so now, we've received about $160,000,” said Marco Cocito-Monoc.
It's all the result of that feeling of helplessness from an out-of-control disaster that no one can wrap their mind around. For some, the only way to try, is one t-shirt at a time.
When volunteer opportunities do become available, Hands On New Orleans sends out blast emails to everyone on their list.
You can sign up through their website, http://www.handsonneworleans.org.