Consumer goods will once again cross the threshold of the old Wal-Mart on South Carson Street, vacant for more than two years because of a development conflict, but the boxes of diapers and cases of water will be for Hurricane Katrina victims.
As early as Monday, the grassroots aid group Katrina's Hope could begin accepting donations at the old Wal-Mart, 4209 S. Carson St., for the 300 evacuees expected to be sheltered in Sparks and Stead.
Property owner Max Baer Jr., who has been stymied in his effort to develop Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino there, said Tuesday he is preparing the building for the Katrina's Hope volunteers to collect and sort goods. Phone lines will be installed and a sign will be placed in the front of the building that says: "Katrina's Hope The Open Door Relocation Project."
"This is putting the Wal-Mart to a lot better use than it's been in for the last two years," said the former Hollywood star of "The Beverly Hillbillies."
"It's for a good cause. If I can use it to help those people down there, I will."
Baer has said he will break ground on a hillbillies casino by June 2006, whether that's in the old Wal-Mart or not.
He's also looking at three locations in Douglas County - one at the future AIG Baker Riverwood development across from the Topsy Lane shopping center - and two locations in Carson City. Baer declined to say where those other locations are.
Carson City Fire Chief Stacy Giomi said any facility that is going to be open to the public must comply with the minimum fire code requirements. He said it's still unclear whether Baer would have to apply for any type of permit or receive an inspection since he isn't opening a business
"It's not designed to house people - we would have concerns about that - but as a collection point we don't have any concerns," Giomi said.
Tammi Geraci, founder of Katrina's Hope, said she is planning to keep the effort local for only evacuees relocating to Northern Nevada.
"Once the Red Cross can do no more with work clothes, prescription medicines, or transportation, we can fill in if they can't," the Reno woman said.
The new organization, which was created on Saturday and doesn't have a nonprofit status yet, has raised about $1,100. Geraci said they will use another organization's nonprofit status until she can complete the paperwork.
"It's just a local group of people coming together to pay it forward," she said.
For more information or to volunteer at the organization's booths at the Reno Balloon Races or the Virginia City Camel Races, call Geraci at 691-4039.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.