01/14/10 — Thinking about Haiti here at home

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Thinking about Haiti here at home

By Becky Barclay and Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 14, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County people are doing their part to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Goldsboro's M.E.R.C.I. Center is collecting medical supplies, bedding, blankets, sheets and personal care items to send to the disaster victims.

The efforts are being coordinated through a North Carolina Conference Methodist work team from Clayton Memorial United Methodist Church that was in Haiti when the earthquake hit and is now trying to get a flight back home.

"We have a health kit with minimal personal care items in it, and we need items for those," said Ann Huffman, M.E.R.C.I. Center volunteer coordinator and caseworker. "And we need other items like tarps and things that can provide shelter."

She said the plan currently is to load supplies on a plane that will leave from Johnston County Airport to deliver the first load of supplies to Haiti. Fuel and time to fly the private plan has been arranged by Mike Marvel.

"It will be a small load, but a start," Mrs. Huffman said.

"We will send things by other airplanes if they are available or by ocean-going shipping container that is 40 feet long by 81/2 feet high by 10 feet wide. However we can get it done, we will do it."

Volunteers are also needed at the M.E.R.C.I. warehouse on Community Drive in the Rosewood area to help accept and to prepare donated items for shipment, Mrs. Huffman said.

Monetary donations are always welcome. Checks should be made out to M.E.R.C.I. and on the memo line a notation made for Haiti Relief. Checks may be mailed to 676 Community Drive, Goldsboro, N.C., 27530. Checks and other donations may be dropped off at the center Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Donations may also be made by calling the center at 739-9167 or e-mailing to merci@nccumc.org.

The M.E.R.C.I. Center is working with officials at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to collect furniture from dormitories that have been renovated to send to Haiti at a later date.

The Wayne County chapter of the American Red Cross is taking monetary donations, too.

"The biggest thing that's needed the most is financial contributions, whether by check, online or phone," said Chuck Waller, Red Cross director. "Cash can be converted to whatever the immediate need may be on the ground in Haiti."

Waller said the Red Cross cannot accept donations of items. "There is no logistical support in place to store and transport things," he said. "If folks are wanting to donate items, a good way would be to convert those items into cash by having a garage sale and donating the proceeds to help that way."

People can also donate to the International Response Fund by visiting Redcross.org or by calling 800-REDCROSS.

Waller said the Red Cross is also receiving money through a third-party mobile fundraising effort sponsored by Mobile Accord. Mobile phone customers can text "Haiti" to 90999 and a $10 donation will automatically be sent to Haiti to support the American Red Cross relief efforts.

Waller said the chapter has had some people calling already asking about donating blood.

"At this point, we have not received any request for blood products from the government of Haiti," he said.

The local chapter is not sending any disaster volunteers at this time. "At present, the Red Cross is deploying only those volunteers specially trained to manage international emergency operations," Waller said. "No local or national volunteers have been deployed yet."

Waller said Haiti's needs are basic.

"Priority needs in Haiti are food, water, shelter, medical services and emotional support," he said.

Waller said the Red Cross has committed a million dollars in resources to the relief efforts in Haiti and has also released supplies from a warehouse in Panama to meet the needs of 5,000 families. Those supplies include cooking sets, tarps and mosquito nets.

Red Cross staff is also on the ground in Haiti working to obtain detailed information on humanitarian needs, Waller said. "Disaster specialists are standing by to be deployed upon request.

"The International Red Cross has also deployed a number of emergency response units for relief, telecommunications, logistics and health/mobile hospital logistics. The International Committee of the Red Cross is coordinating family tracing activities and will focus on helping people affected by the disaster in Haiti communicate with family members."

Reggie Cummings, church administrator at The Lord's Table, said nothing had been decided yet on specific ways to respond to the Haitian crisis.

"What we'll probably wind up doing, we have a missionary, Pritchard Adams, who's over there," he said this morning. "We got in touch with his family yesterday. They said he's OK, he wasn't on that side of Haiti when the earthquake hit.

"Most likely we'll coordinate with him versus going through some other agency, since we have a man on the ground. Communication into the island is kind of shaky right now."