Local Haiti relief efforts growing fast
By Jim Hagerty
As soon as the people of Rockford learned of the earthquake that rocked the Republic of Haiti last month, an area-wide relief effort began taking shape. With the help of organizations like the American Red Cross and Food For The Poor, groups have joined forces to help those affected by the disaster.
The Jan. 12 quake measured 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale, almost leveling the capital city of Port-au-Prince and killing more than 150,000 people.
One local group, the Hope for Haitians Committee, is leading the charge in relief for the people of Haiti. The committee was formed in 2001 by Tom Lorden, who realized Haiti was in critical condition. When Lorden first traveled to the Caribbean nation, he noticed a lack of modern amenities, disease and people living in swamps.
The sight prompted the Hope for Haitians Committee to build “Rockford Friendship Village,” consisting of 100 homes, sanitation facilities, solar panel lighting and a community center near the area of Madeleine. The village houses approximately 500 people.
When the earthquake hit, Lorden’s group was working on an array of programs to benefit the people of Haiti, including ways to improve schools and build another village. Lorden was travelling Jan. 12 when he heard the news and recognized the need to shift the group’s focus and become a vital part of area fund-raising pushes.
“One of our members, Pete Roche, thought it would be a good idea to reach out to our donors,” Lorden said.
The committee sent letters of donation requests to its list of about 400 contacts. Lorden was happy with the response.
“Rockford has been very generous to our call,” Lorden, who has been to Haiti three times, added. “We’ve made a lot of progress because of that generosity.”
A Thursday, Jan. 28, media telethon at CherryVale Mall raised approximately $30,000 to benefit Haiti.
Lorden said a second village, Hope Friendship Village, is under construction and scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The group is calling for donations to cover the $400,000 cost to finish the project. The committee also seeks donations to help buy school lunches for Haitian students and fly doctors to the country to provide medical care. Feed For The Poor officials are overseeing the village’s construction phases.
“The needs in Haiti were very great before the earthquake,” Lorden added. “Now, it’s catastrophic. It has been one tragedy after the other.”
Since 2001, the Hope for Haitians Committee has raised close to $1 million for the people of Haiti.
What started out as a small group of Rockford Facebook members, including On the Waterfront CEO Becky Genoways, is now a planning committee for a day-long Haiti benefit concert. Rockford Helps Haiti! will feature live music from a sorted slate of performers Sunday, Feb. 21, at Giovanni’s. Proceeds from the event will be donated to three area charitable organizations including the Hope for Haitians Committee. Performers include The Sensations, Harland Jefferson, The Moment and 7th Street Allstar.
“It’s been great,” Genoways said of the Facebook effort. “We just started out as a small group. Facebook is a great way to stay connected. I’ve been able to see real, firsthand accounts of what’s going on (around the word). It brings it close to home.”
So far, more than 300 guests have been invited to the benefit via Facebook messages. At press time, 100 have been confirmed. Cost is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. The event runs from 1 to 9 p.m. Tickets are available at Giovanni’s and the Rockford Area Arts Council.
Those wishing to donate to the Hope for Haitians Committee are encouraged to contact the organization at (815) 218-6938. The group can be found online at www.hopeforhaitianstrust.org. Rock River Chapter of American Red Cross can be reached at (815) 963-8471 or www.rockriver.redcross.org. Food For The Poor can be found at www.foodforthepoor.org.
From the Feb. 3-9, 2010 issue.
Print This Article