Heavy snow on the ground accompanied by arctic temperatures failed to dampen the spirits of a host of volunteers who showed up at the Masonic Temple Building in Portsmouth Saturday morning to load medical supplies to be sent to earthquake-torn Haiti.
However, by mid-morning, some news came that was unexpected.
“The man in Texas who was going to let us use his plane said it is already full, and he is going to need to get a second plane, but even that one is probably going to be full too, and we have a lot more supplies than we first thought so it is going to cost about $7,000 to ship,” Lois Phillips said.
Rick and Lois Phillips serve the Bethel United Methodist Church in West Portsmouth, where they have saved about $3,500, approximately half of what will be required, in a fund for just such a need. Now they are going to need the public to step up and call them and donate. Phillips said anyone needing information on donating may call (740) 259-4956.
Through the turmoil of having to find an alternate shipping mode, the volunteers continued to work feverishly stacking box after box.
“It’s medical supplies that I collect continuously,” Rita Haider, one of the organizers told the Portsmouth Daily Times. “I have been collecting for three years. Different places donate. Let’s say something goes into a home for health care, and that person comes off health care, even though the supplies may never have been opened, they are not permitted to use them on another patient.”
Volunteer after volunteer worked together in the manner of an assembly line, loading dollies with boxes of supplies, taking them down the elevator to waiting trucks.
“Over the years people have heard that Dr. Pettit and I have these storage rooms donated by the Masonic Temple rent free, and we go and pick up supplies. Now we have the opportunity to ship it to Haiti, and we are so thankful that all of this is going to be able to go.”
The group inventoried as they loaded the boxes, stacking things such as I.V. bags, Depends, Ensure, crutches, weight machines, sterilizers, oxygen tents and many other items.
The supplies are headed for a hospital in Thomazeau, Haiti run by Pastors Jean and Marese Romain, who visited Scioto County this past year, leaving with financial assistance that led to the building of the hospital in the first place.
The disastrous earthquake comes five months after Romain talked to the Portsmouth Daily Times during his visit with the Phillips family.
“I am the pastor of seven churches. I oversee seven churches. And we also have seven schools. We have one orphanage, and this orphanage has about 55 boys,” Romain told the Times in August. “And we also have the bible school to train people to be leaders, to be teachers, to be evangelists, and whatever the Lord is calling them to do. And right now we are building a hospital. It is almost complete now.”
That hospital was completed and Romain told us the hospital serves a population of 50,000 people in an area known as Thomazeau, approximately two hours from Port Au Prince, Haiti the epicenter of the quake.
One of the most important aspects of a project of that magnitude is logistics. And this one, given the devastation in Haiti is a nightmare. But it has not kept the volunteers from working the details out.
“We’ve been trying to arrange to get this material down there since July,” Lois Phillips said. “But because of shipping costs it has been difficult, so we have been trying to save the money.”
Organizers said the mission is a joint effort.
“All of this stuff has been donated by the Pike Community Hospital and SOMC (Southern Ohio Medical Center) and some doctor’s offices because they didn’t need it, and they gave it to us and we stored it here,” Dr. George Pettit said. “We have used it to our missions to Pakistan, the Philippines, and our previous Haiti mission. And now we’re shipping all of these supplies out to the church in Haiti. They’ve got a container and we are sending all of this out here.”
Pettit and Haider set up a triage point in the hallway on the third floor of the Masonic Temple Building, and organized the separation of supplies.
“Some of the things that we have here, I will be taking with me to the Philippines when I go toward the end of February,” Pettit said. “The majority of these things like the wash pans, and the diapers, and the I.V. solutions will make a big difference in Haiti. Because this stuff is very expensive if you buy it new. Used it has very little value. So we save it, and send it off to where it needs to be.”
As people lifted heavy boxes of supplies, there still was no absence of smiles as they reflected on the magnitude of their project and the lives it will touch.
“There are issues with the weather, and logistics, and it has been kind of a nightmare. But everything that has to do with Haiti is a nightmare,” Phillips said. “But it’s full of blessings when it’s all said and done.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org