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St. Louisans give to Haitian recovery

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 20, 2010 - Eager to help in some way, St. Louisans are responding to the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti with a number of fund-raising events. Here's a small sampling of what's being done.

On Jan. 13, Jane Corbett, Gene Bentrup, Brady Hanlen and dozens of other deeply concerned St. Louisans will raise money for the nonprofit Hands Together in Haiti. An American Catholic priest, Father Thomas Hagan, runs the program, which has 12,000 students on 15 school campuses, a literacy programs for adults, meal programs and water programs. Over the years, St. Louisans have volunteered in its schools and food programs in Haiti.

The main event is Wednesday at Splish Splash Car Wash, 2727 Watson Road, St. Louis, from 8 a.m until 8 p.m. Hanlen, who adopted a child from Haiti, will set up a barbecue stand at the car wash with donated meat from his Hanlen's Meat Market. 

"Every penny at the car wash and barbecue will go to Haiti," said Corbett who has volunteered in Haiti annually since 1982. She hopes to take her three adult children and six grandchildren to Haiti in June.

City's 6th Ward

The 6th ward organization invites people to Van Goghz Martini Bar & Bistro, 3200 Shenandoah Ave., from 4-6 p.m. Jan. 20 for a happy hour and to collect monetary donations for Meds & Food for Kids and For His Glory Adoption Outreach, two Haitian organizations that serve small children.

Concert at CRC

Central Reform Congregation: 5020 Waterman Blvd., is hosting a benefit concert at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 23. The suggested minimum donation is $10.

Performers include Rabbi Randy Fleisher, Leslie Caplan, Marty Miller & Rabbi Ed Harris, Andrew Bollinger, David and Sara Surkamp (of Pavlov's Dog), Ricardo Souza Melo, Robert Fishbone, Will Soll & Shlomo, Ed Reggi & the Paper Slip Theatre

All proceeds will benefit Med & Food for Kids and American Jewish World Service

Musicians for Haiti

The Sheldon Concert Hall's Notes From Home series will present St. Louis Musicians for Haiti at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 9. Proceeds will benefit Doctors Without Borders. General admission tickets are $15. Call MetroTix at314-534-1111 or visitwww.TheSheldon.org. Tickets also available without a convenience fee in person at the Fox TheatreBox Office.

Hosted by Julius Hunter, the event will feature soul and R&B singer Brian Owens, folk group Mayor Taylor, the Bottoms Up Blues Gang, jazz pianist Peter Martin, jazz vocalist Mardra Thomas with husband Reggie Thomas on piano, and jazz, soul and R&B singer Kim Massie, soprano Christine Brewer with Phillip Dunlap on piano, and Pianist Peter Henderson.

Bentrup has persuaded several Imo's Pizza restaurants, the five Syberg's resturants, Chris Pancake House in south St. Louis and Oceano Restaurant in Clayton to donate 20 percent of their profits on Wednesday to the "Hands Together" effort. Hanlen is distributing flyers to interested businesses to display in their windows.

"The owners are personal friends, they are good people they want to help and will give us the money," said Bentrup. Business that want to join the Wednesday effort can call car wash owner Gene Bentrup at 265-0891.

On the way

For the past eight years, Mary Christman has devoted a week or so each year to developing a physical therapy curriculum and training workers at the Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles. The hospital is on a former banana plantation in Haiti's less crowded central plateau 40 miles from the earthquake-stricken area of Port-au-Prince.

Christman, a professor of physical therapy at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, is currently on sabbatical and had planned to leave on Thursday for Haiti with her husband artist Bill Christman. She volunteers there under auspices of Health Volunteers Overseas, a U.S.-based charity for medical professionals. With all commercial flights canceled, the Christmans are unsure when they will depart. She is on sabbatical so she is flexible.

"They'll need plenty of physical therapy but not right away," she said. "I don't consider myself an essential person."

Since Wednesday, she's been checking for emails from the hospital staff. Fortunately, the hospital sustained no damage, and four generators provide its electricity. Its staff is working around the clock welcoming the injured who are arriving in the back of pick-up trucks. The drive from Port-au-Prince takes about two and half hours when the roads are clear, she said.

Her heart is moved that some hospital staffers don't know the whereabouts of their families in Port-au-Prince but continue to provide emergency care to the injured.

Such stories of kindness and goodness in Haiti never surprise Christman. Her first assignment with Health Volunteers Overseas was in El Salvador. The following year when she was assigned to Haiti, she was reluctant. She speaks Spanish but knew no Creole, the island's main language.

"After the first year in Haiti I told (Health Volunteers Overseas) that Haiti was the only place I wanted to work. The Haitians are the most wonderful, kind, helpful people," she said.

Kindness is so universal that the disabled can depend on it. For example, Christman was giving one woman physical therapy who could not yet walk.

"I always ask how patients are going to get home, because no one has a car," she said.

That patient explained that she'd ride in the back of a Haitian pick-up truck called a tap-tap that makes regular stops like a bus. Christman asked the woman how close the tap-tap stop was to her home. It was more than a mile away.

"I told her that she could not walk a mile," Christman said. The patient shrugged off worry and saw no challenge.

"Everyone -- strangers -- will get off and carry me," the patient told her. "And I knew the Haitians would do that, They are the kindest, most incredible people. I love the people of Haiti. I wish I were there. That is why people who volunteer in Haiti always want to go back."

Special Collections Sunday at Parishes

Archbishop Robert Carlson has told pastors and parish councils of the nearly 200 parishes in the St. Louis archdiocese's 11 counties to take a second collection at all Saturday evening and Sunday Masses specifically for victims of the Haitian earthquake. Funds collected will go to Catholic Relief Services, based in Baltimore, according to the archdiocese assistant director of communications Elizabeth Westhoff.

Thursday Carlson said a Mass at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica for the repose of the souls of all who died in the Haitian earthquake, including Haitian Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot. Carlson led the congregation in prayers for their mourning families and all who are suffering from the disaster.

"It's hard to comprehend how something so terrible can happen on such a massive scale," the archbishop said. "It's at times like these that we turn in faith and ask the Lord to carry those who are suffering and who have lost so much."

The Catholic Diocese of Belleville where many parishioners long have supported charity efforts in Haiti will have a special collection in its parishes this weekend.

"Any individual or organization that wants to contribute to Catholic Relief Services can donate directly to the Belleville chancery," said diocesan chancellor David Spotanski. "What an incredible tragedy. It just seems to get more horrific by the hour."

Lutheran Efforts

The Kirkwood-based Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's charitable World Relief and Human Care fund has made an initial grant for emergency needs. The Synod has asked its members to assist the church body's relief agency to contribute with "unlimited mercy," said the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, the church charity's director of disaster response. "The needs are urgent and overwhelming right now. I appeal to God's people to respond as generously as possible during this most difficult time."

The church body has missionaries in Haiti and has been a partner church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti since 2001. The church's Life and Health Ministries Director Maggie Karner sent out an email to Lutheran pastors and congregations asking for physicians, pharmacists, and other medical professionals to volunteer for the Lutheran team that had already been scheduled to serve in Haiti March 11-21

Southern Baptists respond

Many Southern Baptists in Missouri intend to support fellow Missouri Baptists from Red Bridge Baptist Church in Kansas City. Since 1998, they have run Haiti Home of Hope, an orphanage with 36 children near Pignon in the north central Haiti.

"We are pretty full up already, all beds full at this point," said David Wallace who manages the stateside efforts. In past hurricane disasters, children have wandered in and they have been able to accommodate them. The facility had not been damaged. The largest employer in the town, it is watching like the rest of the world to see what the needs are.

Some Baptists are sending funds to Haiti Home of Hope, 4901 East Red Bridge Road, Kansas City, Mo. 64137.

Other charities accepting donations

Here are some charities helping in Haiti that St. Louisans are supporting.

American Jewish World Services 

Catholic Relief

CRUDEM For two decades St. Louisans, especially in the medical profession, have supported Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, Haiti through its CRUDEM foundation. 

Hands Together in Haiti

Hopital Albert Schweitzer

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's World Relief and Human Care

Medicins sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors without Borders, is working to establish field hospitals in affected areas. 

Meds and Food for Kids, a nutritional program for Haitian children suffering from malnutrition, was founded by St. Louis pediatrician Dr. Patricia Wolff

Oxfam, an international agency working in Haiti. 

Randolph World Ministries, an area charity was founded and continues to be led by Tim Randolph, Ph.D. of Collinsville, an associate professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University. It funds a non-profit medical lab in Haiti Randolph visits there twice a year to oversee it. He left just before the earthquake suprised the nation. 

Red Cross The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra will donate to the American Red Cross 5 percent of single ticket revenue from orchestral series concerts over the next two weekends. 

Salvation Army has a day-old command center in one of Port-au-Prince's slums.

Save the Children, an international charitiy which has been in Haiti for two decades.

Seton Institute is the international outreach arm of Ascension Health. The Daughters of Charity, one of the sponsors of Ascension Health, has a strong presence in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, located near the quake's epicenter.

United NationsUNESCO fund for Haiti

World Vision, an international charity that has worked in Haiti for three decades 

Yele Haiti, the charity of Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, accepts donations via cell phone. Text the word, 'Yele', to 501501, which will automatically register a $5 (U.S.) donation. Charge will appear on your next mobile phone bill. (Some reports have begun to question the financial management of this organization.)

All of these are established charities that say that their sites are secure. The FBI has warned about scam artists and tells donors to be wary of any unsolicited, unknown "charity." The Better Business Bureau warns that some scams use familiar sounding names, with one or two letters or words different from the names of well-known charities.

Patricia Rice is a freelance writer in St. Louis who has long covered religion.

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