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Residents pray for Haiti
Vigil kicks off city relief effort
Residents attend a prayer vigil Thursday in downtown Hinesville. From left are Henry Relaford, Patricia Ayala, Ayala’s daughter, Layana, 7, and Sharon Howell. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge

School, PTA start fundraiser

Diamond Elementary School’s PTA is organizing a school-wide fundraiser to raise money for disaster relief in Haiti. The two-week initiative begins Monday.
As incentive, teachers whose classes raise at least $50 must perform an outrageous (but safe) stunt, such as allowing themselves to be slimed or covered in silly string by students.
The PTA will collect and count the money daily and each class will keep track of contributions on a thermometer outside their doors.
Teachers are encouraging parents to let children do extra chores at home to raise money to contribute. Classes may also challenge each other to increase donations.
The focus, Diamond Elementary educators say, is to show students they can make a difference. The money raised will go to the American Red Cross.

— Denise Etheridge and Patty Leon


The city of Hinesville launched its Haiti disaster relief campaign with prayer Thursday night during a candlelight vigil in Bradwell Park. A crowd of roughly 50 area residents, ministers and city officials formed a worship circle, holding glow sticks in the dark mist lit by street lamps.  
State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, helped to organize the solemn gathering along with area pastors. The Liberty County Citizens Council sponsored the event.
“The tragedy in Haiti is now,” Williams said. “There are some things we need to react to immediately.”
Prayer, Williams said, is immediate. However, rebuilding Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake turned the island nation’s capitol to rubble, killing hundreds of thousands of people, will be a long term process, he said.
The earthquake struck Haiti at 4:53 p.m. on Jan. 12, near Port-au-Prince. So far, about 33 aftershocks have followed the initial earthquake, measuring 4.2 to 5.9. An estimated 3 million people are in need of emergency aid.
“This prayer vigil is just a first step,” Hinesville Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Frasier said. “Our brothers and sisters in Haiti need our prayers, our support and our money. Let this be the start of something great … to participate in a cause that is bigger than us.”
Frasier stood in for Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who was out of town at a national mayoral conference in Washington, D.C., this week.
City officials plan to hold a 30-day donation drive now through Feb. 18. Funds will be collected at Hinesville City Hall. Local churches, businesses and organizations are encouraged to bring donations to city hall. Payments should be made out to the American Red Cross.
Local real estate developer Clay Sikes, owner of the Sikes Group, spoke at the vigil. He has been assisting Haiti for more than 20 years through Haiti Outreach, a missionary group.
The businessman told the crowd connections he and other leaders recently made in Washington, D.C., — to mitigate the loss of a 5th brigade ­­­— proved useful in efforts to support Haiti.
“You never know where a trail will lead,” he said.
Sikes explained that networking put him in touch with an Obama administration official, Patrick Gaspard, director of the Office of Political Affairs, and a D.C. lobbying firm, Hurt, Norton and Associates, Inc., who in turn linked him to other sources that helped fast-track a well water project in Haiti.
“All they have now is water bottles and those are running out,” Sikes said, in reference to Haitian earthquake victims’ dire need for clean drinking water.
Sikes told those assembled equipment to build a well was on its way to Carrefour, Haiti, “tonight.”
“Those people will have clean water in three days,” he said.
The equipment was donated by Inretti Technologies, Inc., a company based in Florida, and was being flown by the United States Agency for International Development into the ravaged Caribbean country, Sikes explained. USAID is a government agency which provides economic and humanitarian assistance across the globe.
Once the new well is installed, it will provide 660,000 gallons of clean water a day, he said.
The Liberty County developer said he and others who have assisted Haiti in the past hope to coordinate with “any aid agency or missionary group.”
Hinesville resident and Sikes’ long-time friend, Dickie Welch, founded Haiti Outreach. Welch, who has worked with Haitian pastors in supporting orphanages in Haiti, says the loss of life caused by the quake has hit home.
Welch said an orphanage he and local residents helped build was damaged. Two of the orphan children who lived there were killed and five were seriously injured.
“When you know them (victims) personally it affects you in a different way,” he said in a choked voice.
Still, Welch said his faith in God has not wavered.
“Faith always precedes ability,” he said. “God’s word never fails.”
For more information on the campaign, call Hinesville City Hall at 876-3564 or e-mail
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