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Helping the people of Haiti

By   /   January 20, 2010  /   Comments

Staff reports

Just as Sept. 11, 2001 changed the world, and July 6, 1994 changed Albany, Jan. 12, 2010 forever altered Haiti. As many as 200,000 people died in the earthquake and this week, victims’ bodies continued to be recovered beneath building rubble in and near the capital of Port au Prince.

No stranger to natural disaster, as evidenced by the devastating flood waters from Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994, many Albany residents are raising money and in some cases traveling to the ravaged country to help out.

Mission:Change, an Albany organization that lends itself to the social injustice needs in Albany is leading the collection of food and medical supplies from Albany to Haiti.

“Mission:Change says ‘Change the world from your Backyard.’ The citizens of Metro Albany can now participate in a global task and truly effect change from their own backyards, said David Blackwell, the organization’s mission project coordinator.

Blackwell was contacted Sunday by Todd Urick, founder of Mission:Change, who is now performing mission work at Bahamas Methodist Habitat, which is coordinating as many as eight flights a day to Haiti. Volunteer pilots have flow more than 17,000 pounds of medical supplies and evacuated 27 people from Haiti, Blakwell said..

Items collected in Albany will be flown from Albany to Nassau and on to Haiti early next week. As collections continue, donations will be driven to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,  and arrangements have been made with the port  for flights from there into Nassau and on to Haiti.

“We did not hesitate at the opportunity to send hope to the people of Haiti from Albany, Ga.,” Blackwell said.

Items that are being collected are beans, rice, spaghetti, tomato paste and over-the-counter first aid supplies.

“In order for us to mobilize and transport as quickly as possible, Mission:Change is asking that drop-offs be limited to the above items until further notice,” Blackwell said.  “Monetary donations are also very much needed and will be used to continue purchasing  fuel for the planes.”

The following businesses are serving as drop off locations: SB&T Bank (Albany and Leesburg locations) Albany Harley-Davidson, Flint Community Bank, Goodie Two Shoes, Albany Uniforms and Byne Memorial Baptist Church. For more information, call David Blackwell at  886-1257 or e-mail david@missionchange.com. Check www.missionchange.com for updates.

MCLB DELIVERS

Tons of emergency supplies staged at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany are on their way to earthquake-ravaged Haiti immediately, with more expected to follow in the coming days.

The Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Assistance/Excess Property Program, which stores humanitarian supplies and coordinates efforts from MCLB Albany, began loading and shipping materials Thursday.  Five trucks were loaded with prepackaged meals and sent out Thursday, the first items to go in this situation.

“We received official notification Thursday afternoon to start sending the priority shipments, which in this case is our humanitarian daily rations,” said Bill Lane, HAP director. “But we were on standby as soon as we saw the disaster in the news on Tuesday evening.  We knew we were going to be involved somehow, so we went ahead and started getting ready.”

A total of 41 trucks are scheduled to be on the way Friday with 600,000 meals and tents for those in need.  The trucks will travel to a staging area in Florida, from where the supplies will then be airlifted into Haiti.  Officials expect more equipment will be needed in the coming days, and are ready to react to whatever is requested.

“There is a whole laundry list of materials available, from generators, tents, stoves, medical supplies, blankets, clothing for adults and children, meals and more,” said Lane. “We are poised and ready to go with everything that we have here, and are getting it into a shipping posture, based on the requirement.”

HCA MAKES DONATION

Meanwhile, Palmyra Medical Center’s parent company, HCA, said this week it will match employee contributions and provide in-kind donations for a $1 million total contribution.  Cash donations will go to relief organizations including the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

Relief agencies are advising that cash and supplies are currently more helpful than volunteers.  Therefore, the company is encouraging employees anxious to help to make a donation.  HCA has established the ability for employees, physicians, facility volunteers or others affiliated with the company to give directly to a special relief fund, “The HCA Haiti Relief Fund,” administered through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.  The company will match employee gifts to this fund. Tax-deductible donations to this fund may be made by either check or credit card at www.cfmt.org/HCAHaitiReliefFund.

HCA’s temporary staffing agency, All About Staffing, is accepting the names of HCA clinical staff and disaster-trained employees who are interested in volunteering, and will apprise them of opportunities once the situation in Haiti has stabilized.

RED CROSS DONATIONS

There here are four ways to contribute to the American Red Cross’ Haiti relief effort financially:

1) Bring/send money to the local chapter to be forwarded to NHQ for the International Relief Fund.

2) Text the word “Haiti” to 90999. A $10 donation will be made and will show up on their next cell phone bill.

3) Go to www.redcross.org to donate online to the International Relief Fund.

4) Call 1-800-7REDCROSS to donate by phone.

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