Cobb offering aid to devastated country
by Katy Ruth Camp
krcamp@mdjonline.com
January 15, 2010 01:00 AM | 1262 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti sent shockwaves throughout the world but, even though the scene of disaster is thousands of miles away, several students, volunteers and nonprofit groups in Cobb have gathered to reach out a helping hand.

"The devastation exists on a much broader scale across the country than I think most people know," said Ted Walbert, president of the Marietta-based nonprofit group Health and Education Relief Organization. Walbert's group has focused solely on providing medical and hunger relief to the country since it began out of Transfiguration Catholic Church in Marietta six years ago.

"I was just there last week, and spoke with a young man I know over there who said the road to Jacmel is just completely gone, and that hundreds are dead there and the buildings are all down. The damage isn't just in one location ... it's much further than anyone knew," Walbert said.

The organization has received medical supply donations and medical staff volunteers, but is in need of an aircraft that can carry the volunteers, supplies and food to those in need in Haiti.

C-130 airplanes, which were all built in Marietta by Lockheed Martin, are being used in the disaster relief efforts.

"Suffice it to say from our perspective that we of course are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragedy, but also feel a sense of pride that the aircraft called upon to respond first were all built here in Marietta," Lockheed spokesman Peter Simmons said.

Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, president of Southern Polytechnic State University, said her university has at least nine Haitian students enrolled and that all have been offered counseling and other support services, if needed.

"All of us at Southern Polytechnic are deeply concerned about the earthquake's impact on our Haitian students, their families, and the communities that are their homes. They are in our thoughts and our prayers," Rossbacher said.

SPSU students started an initiative to collect money and relief supplies, which occurred in the Student Center on campus throughout the day Thursday. An alumnus of SPSU is involved in organizing this effort at http://sisterlyloveforhaiti.weebly.com/index.html, she said.

"It's good to see our students being proactive in finding ways to help," Rossbacher said.

Kennesaw State University is also helping out with the relief efforts. A clothing and canned goods drive is being held on the KSU throughout the campus in room 255 of the second floor of the Global Village, at the Leaning Man, by the ATM near the campus bookstore, and at the entrance of the social science building by the main staircase inside the building.

The college's Internation Student Association also held a fundraiser at its annual meeting on Thursday and ISA will be accepting monetary donations, water, non-perishable food, school supplies, camping tents for shelter and various other items.

Cobb County School District spokesman Jay Dillon said there is currently no coordinated school district relief effort for Haiti, but that many schools have begun to plan relief efforts and that they are familiar with the proper guidelines for conducting fund-raising activities.

Thomas Algerin, spokesman for Marietta City Schools, said that several of the district's elementary schools are organizing relief activities with students and the community, but none are currently under way.

Marietta High School Beta Club sponsor and English and math teacher Wendy Overton-Ervin said that the club raised over $300 on Thursday as students, staff and faculty donated everything from pennies to $20.

"We wanted to see how much we could raise in one day, and were really surprised when we had $45 in just the first 20 minutes. Everyone wanted us to do it again tomorrow so that they could bring in money that they didn't have on them today, so we'll also be collecting money tomorrow as well. People were just in awe at how much we were able to pull together, that even pennies and dimes can add up when everyone donates," Overton-Ervin said.

Proceeds from the club's fund-raisers will be donated to the Samaritan's Purse International Relief.

Ruben Brown, spokesman for the metropolitan Atlanta chapter of the American Red Cross, said the nonprofit organization is working as a whole to provide assistance to those in need, as it is an international disaster.

The ARC is sending donated blood, food and water to Haiti, setting up temporary shelter for those displaced from their homes and offering medical services and emotional support. The organization has also established a Web site, http://www.icrc.org/web/doc/siterfl0.nsf/htmlall/familylinks-haiti-eng, which helps to reconnect families that have been separated.

Brown also said that Brigitte Gaillis of Marietta left Wednesday for Santo Domingo as a selected ARC international volunteer.

The United Way is also bringing its local chapters together to work as a whole for disaster relief. The organization asks that monetary donations be made to the United Way Worldwide Disaster Fund through online payments at https://volunteer.united-e-way.org/uwwwdisaster/donate/, by texting HAITI to 864833 (UNITED) or by mailing a check with FUND referenced in either the memo line or an enclosed correspondence to United Way Worldwide, P.O. Box 630568, Baltimore, MD 21263-0568.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reminds Internet users who receive requests for donations in the aftermath of the earthquake to be careful when donating to people and organizations as some criminals will be soliciting contributions that will not be used for disaster relief. Some guidelines to follow include: do not respond to any spam e-mails or click on links contained in the e-mails; be skeptical of those representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or networking sites; verify the legitimacy of nonprofit groups by researching them online and finding confirmation of the group's existence; and make contributions directly to well-known organizations rather than allowing others to make the donation on your behalf.
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