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Local Volunteers Planning Haiti Relief

Anderson, Ind. - The response to the earthquake in Haiti from the Anderson community has led various mission groups to call a meeting to coordinate efforts.

They are to meet at 1 p.m. Monday at Madison Park Church of God, at East 67th Street and Columbus Avenue.

The public is invited, said one of the organizers, Shalimar Scott of the Anderson-based Mission Haiti Midwest organization.

"What we're trying to do is get the word out that even though there are urgent needs, Haiti is going to have needs for months to come," Scott said Friday.

"We want to get the word out to the community as to what the needs are and how we can do this as a community effort."

Mission Haiti Midwest, 3389 Alexandria Pike, operates a medical compound and orphanage in Haiti. Local dentist Dr. Mark Fulton serves as its board president.

Theirs is just one of many groups and individuals seeking ways to help Haitians.

Although it's too early to tell the best way to help those in Haiti, Anderson firefighter Skip Ockomon said he began Thursday preparing for a trip to the devastated country along with his wife, Diana Ockomon, and other volunteers.

"We were going to wait until next year to do something like this, but I think God wanted us to go now," Ockomon said. "That's a calling. I don't care if it's in our backyard or across the water, you need to go there."

Ockomon hopes to get a trip together in the next month or so to offer spiritual counseling and infrastructure building to the people of Haiti. He went on previous trips to the area damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"(You receive) a lot of gratitude," he said. "It gives us gratitude that the God in my life gives me the strength and the courage to do something like that."

Local churches and organizations plan to help in their own ways. The Rev. Robert Williams of St. Mary's and St. Ambrose Catholic churches in Anderson said those churches would take up collections for Catholic Relief Services, which provides emergency relief to disaster areas.

Lois Rockhill of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana said although that organization tends to focus on domestic hunger needs, it could serve as a storage facility for groups getting food or supplies ready to go to Haiti.

"Everything I am hearing right now is don't go over yourself until you know because that takes resources from the people who need it," she said. "Send money, and most of that seems to be going through the National Red Cross."

United Way of Madison County director Nancy Vaughan said the United Way will make information available to the public on how to support efforts in Haiti.

"United Way's role in these kinds of efforts is really the long-term recovery role," she said. "Others are first responders. United Way focuses on infrastructure and long-term recovery."

One Anderson business already has helped the recovery efforts, although unintentionally. IPower Energy Systems in September helped a local group of doctors afford to send one of IPower's clean energy generators to the Mission Haiti Medical Clinic in the village of St. Ard in Haiti. The generator, which powers the clinic, was working after the earthquake, but the clinic was damaged, IPower President Terry Pahls said.

"That appears to be one of the only places on the island where they have electricity," Pahls said after talking with local dentist Mark Fulton, who works with the clinic.

Article by: Aleasha Sandley - The Herald Bulletin



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