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Locals’ Domestic Efforts Reach Haiti Earthquake Victims Abroad

Local rescue teams, schools and business are raising money and offering ground-zero aid to Haiti victims following the magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastation. The death toll estimate there rose to 150,000, said Haitian Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue Monday.HAITIbwarescue

Local rescue teams, schools and business are raising money and offering ground-zero aid to Haiti victims following the magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastation. The death toll estimate there rose to 150,000, said Haitian Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue Monday.

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A RESCUE24 TEAM MEMBER for the Falls Church-based Baptist World Alliance treats a wounded child in Haiti following the magnitude 7.0 earthquake. (Photo: Courtesy Lee Hickman)

Fairfax County-based Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), a domestic and international disaster response resource sponsored by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, deployed a full-fledged rescue team to Haiti Jan 13. Equipped with approximately 48 tons of equipment and supplies, a team of 72 personnel, six search and rescue canines, search and technical rescue personnel, physicians, paramedics, structural engineers and others arrived in Port-au-Prince less than 24 hours after the quake hit.

A second VATF-1 search and rescue team of 42 personnel, one canine and additional equipment joined the first squad in Haiti on Jan. 14. Spokesman Dan Schmidt told the News-Press that the teams had rescued 16 people as of Monday.

The rescue workers are expected back in Northern Virginia Thursday, Jan. 28, at 4 p.m., when they land at Dulles International Airport. A press release said “those who wish to greet the team may begin arriving 30 minutes prior to landing and follow signage marked ‘Fairfax USAR Haiti Event.’”

Relatives of VATF-1 have asked for privacy, but Schmidt said a family support group provided a teleconference between family members and their loved ones on a daily basis during their time apart.

The White House Press Office announced Wednesday that Rebecca Knerr of Chantilly would be representing her husband, Capt. II Joseph Knerr, in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box at the 2010 State of the Union last night. Joseph is the task force leader of VATF-1, having worked as a Fairfax County Firefighter for 15 years. He currently serves as station commander at Fairfax Fire and Rescue Station 18.

Baptist World Alliance (BWA), headquartered in the City of Falls Church, is overseeing its own BWAid Rescue24 team serving at a clinic in Port-au-Prince, where the squad arrived Jan. 17. The crew is composed of two Hungarian members and five North Carolina members of BWA, many of whom are medically trained, said BWAid Assistant to the Director Lee Hickman.

BWAid Director Paul Montacute, who communicates directly with the team via Skype, said, “They told me it was horrendous when they first arrived, and these were experienced rescue workers.” Updates from the team posted on BWA’s Web site reported they encountered “immense chaos, confusion and the terrible smell of dead bodies.”

Montacute told the News-Press Tuesday that Rescue24’s second team recently arrived on the island and that a third team is preparing to ship out. It is not yet clear when Rescue24 team members will return home. They are staying on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince at a base overseen by Global Outreach, a Christian organization that supplies resources to missionaries. So far, the Falls Church BWA has raised over $200,000 for victims.

But local rescue teams aren’t the only domestic efforts reaching those abroad.

George Mason High School (GMHS) created the GMHS Haiti Relief Fund. Students have already raised $1,190, thanks to a fundraiser held at the Flippin’ Pizza in Falls Church last Thursday.

GMHS student council members Rebecca Gomez and Yates Jordan announced at this week’s F.C. City Council meeting that donations will also be accepted next Wednesday, Feb. 3 during the student-faculty basketball game.

Raising the stakes, half a dozen teachers, including two women, from Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church have vowed to shave their heads if students there can raise $8,000 by Feb. 15. The money will be donated to Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everyone), a U.S. health care organization with 29 medical volunteers stationed in Haiti.

 

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BISHOP IRETON HIGH SCHOOL students traveled to the Alexandria-based school’s sister school in Haiti, Louverture Cleary school, last Thanksgiving. Here stands (left to right) Haitian Project Mission Leader Elizabeth O’Connell, Mimi Marquet, senior Catherine Vasquez, alumni Hannah Goldman, senior Karoline Nunez, senior Kevin Mondragon, junior Sarah Rupp and junior Carrie Gillespie (junior). (Photo: Courtesy Linda Loffredo)

Bishop Ireton High School (BIHS) in Alexandria has a sister school in Haiti, the Louverture Cleary school. Area students have been conducting mission trips there for seven years, donating $10,000 to 15,000 on average to the school annually.

“Our students have a personal connection to the kids there – they know these people personally,” said Campus Ministry Director Mary Kelly.

Bishop Ireton’s student club, Haitian Alliance, has already organized fundraising efforts at basketball games, drama club performances and the school’s upcoming Winter Ball, where students are being asked to forgo a new dress or suit and make a donation instead.

Juniors Sarah Rupp and Carrie Gillespie, both members of BIHS’ Haitian Alliance, were shocked by the news, having just taken a missions trip to Haiti last Thanksgiving break.

“We’d just been there a few months before, so it was really scary not knowing if the families we’d worked with were okay or not,” said Gillespie. Rupp said she immediately grew nervous for the orphanage she and others had worked at during their trip.

They’ve learned some children at Louverture Cleary were injured during the earthquake, but that no one was killed. Kelly said the suburban school did, however, suffer structural damage.

Rupp and Gillespie rounded up over 4,000 contacts on Facebook, where they spread the word on how to get involved. Aside from monetary donations, the students have been collecting new and used shoes of all sizes. Footwear will be collected through Feb. 15 for Shoes2Share International, a non-profit organization donating footwear to Haitian victims.

“The students are on fire to help,” said Kelly, who added that $8,000 has been raised thus far.

Also raising money for Haiti victims is Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church. Manager Tamara Powell put out a collection jar in the restaurant without any high expectations.

“I thought most people would drop change in, but I was surprised when we started seeing bills pile up,” said Powell.

She plans to keep the jar, which has already garnered a couple of hundred dollars, out through Valentine’s Day, after which all of the money will be mailed to the American Red Cross.

They told me it was horrendous when they first arrived, and these were experienced rescue workers.

“We figured people who come to the restaurant and watch the news may not know how to help. But it’s as simple as opening your pocket and emptying out your loose change into the jar, whether it’s pennies or dollars,” said Powell.

Dogwood Tavern’s sister establishment, Ragtime Restaurant in Arlington, will be hosting a prize raffle this Friday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. to raise money for Partners in Health (PIH), a medical non-profit organization that aids Haiti. Prize winners will be drawn before the Alan Scott Band takes the stage around 10 p.m., with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting PIH.

Like Dogwood, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill on East Broad Street has also chosen the Red Cross as its charitable organization. General Manager Richard Soto said diners are able to add a donation to their receipts when they pay with a credit card. Cash donations are also accepted. The Falls Church restaurant has raised over $800 so far from customer donations.

Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do studio in Falls Church is doing its part by partnering with Medical Missionaries President Dr. Gilbert Irwin, a practicing internist in Manassas who’s been working with medical clinics in Haiti for 13 years. Medical Missionaries oversees a clinic in Thomassique, Haiti that serves 85,000 regional residents.

At the advice of Irwin, the martial arts students have each been asked to donate a care package to ship to Haiti, containing bar soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a wash cloth. Master Chun Rhee’s goal is to involve his younger students more by asking for tangible items instead of money.

“We have a lot of kids, so typically parents are the ones who’d be making financial donations. This way, it’s more in touch with something the students can participate in and understand,” said Rhee.

 

How to Help Local Haiti Relief Efforts

Dining Donations

Various local restaurants are making it easy for diners to donate money on top of their tab. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill (127 E. Broad St., Falls Church) is letting patrons add a donation much like they would a tip when signing their credit card bill. Cash donations are being accepted as well. All donations go the Red Cross. For more information, call 703-532-5380.

Dogwood Tavern (132 W. Broad St., Falls Church) has a donation jar, open to anything from loose change to bills, inside the restaurant. Collections will continue through Valentine’s Day and will then be mailed in full to the Red Cross. For more information, call 703-237-8333.

Dogwood Tavern’s sister establishment, Ragtime Restaurant (1345 N. Courthous Rd., Arlington) will be hosting a raffle fundraiser this Friday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. to raise money for Partners in Health (PIH), a medical non-profit organization that aids Haiti. Prize winners will be drawn before the Alan Scott Band takes the stage around 10 p.m., with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting PIH. For more information, call 703-243-4003.

In-shop sales of Cake Love‘s $4 Lemon Coconut cupcake will go directly to the Red Cross to help Haiti. To find the nearest location, visit Cake Love’s Web site or call 703-442-4880.

 

School & Student Collections

George Mason High School (GMHS) (7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church) will host a student-faculty basketball game fundraiser next Wednesday Feb. 3. Tickets cost $3 and donations will be collected as well. All proceeds will go towards the GMHS Haiti Relief Fund. For more information, call 703-248-5500.

Longfellow Middle School (2000 Westmoreland St., Falls Church) is accepting monetary donations towards its goal of raising $8,000 for Project HOPE, after which six teachers have agreed to shave their heads. Money is being collected at the school and students are seeking donations from their community. For more information, call 703-533-2600.

Bishop Ireton High School (201 Cambridge Rd., Alexandria) is collecting monetary donations for its sister school in Haiti, Louverture Cleary, that suffered structural damage during the earthquake. Since before the earthquake, students have been collecting new and used shoes of all kinds for Shoes2Share International, a non-profit organization sending shoes to the people of Haiti. Shoe collections will continue through Feb. 15. For more information, call 703-751-7606.

 

Fun For a Cause

On Thursday, Jan. 28, K Street Lounge (1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C.) will partner with the non-profit Partners In Health to host “Help4Haiti: A Night to Benefit the Earthquake Relief Effort” from 6 – 8 p.m. There’s a $20 suggested donation per individual. One complimentary drink ticket will be include. To RSVP, visit the event page. For more information, e-mail Jennifer Bloom at [email protected]

From 2 – 6 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 30, two Sun & Moon Yoga Studios (3811 Lee Hwy., Arlington & 9998 Main St., Fairfax) will hold “Yoga for Haiti” every hour on the hour. The donation-only classes will raise money for Doctors Without Borders and their work in Haiti. For more information, call 703-525-YOGA (9642).

The Velvet Lounge (915 U St. NW, Washington, D.C.) will donate all proceeds from its $5 cover charge for Bee’s Knees DJ Night on Feb. 4 to the United Nations’ World Food Program, Justice’s Project Haiti and Artists. It’s been rumored the bartenders will also be donating their tip money that night. For more information, call 202-462-3213.

The Rock & Roll Hotel (1353 H St. NE, Washington, D.C.) will host a “Music Helping Haiti” benefit concert this Sunday, Jan. 31 from 6 – 11 p.m. Tickets cost $12 and can be bought online or at the door, with all proceeds benefitting the Red Cross. Artists scheduled to perform include Echo Boom, Honor By August, Todd Wright, Michaela Thurlow, Tosin and the Rhapsody Band, Prozakistan, and Kat Diva & The World, with more added daily. There will also be acoustic performances upstairs by Michael Yugo, Buster Brown, Laura Tsaggaris, and Uninterrupted. For more information, visit www.rockandrollhoteldc.com.

 

* Update (Thursday, Jan. 28, 11:27 a.m.): Members of VATF-1 are now expected to arrive at Dulles International Airport at 3:40 p.m., instead of the expected 4 p.m. landing time. Public who wish to meet them should arrive 30 minutes prior.


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