Hearts for Haiti fundraiser, in its fifth year, has been instrumental is helping Strong Tower Orphanage in Caracol, Haiti, expand their services this past year. The orphanage has opened the second portion of its duplex, providing housing for 10 additional girls.
The benefit auction will be hosted Friday, April 8 at the First United Methodist Church Celebration Center.
“I just came back from a trip from Haiti in March,” Strong Tower President Lorie Holt said Friday. “The new girls had just arrived. Strong Tower is a duplex, family-style facility, so up to 10 children can be housed on each side of the duplex.
“We have just opened the other side of the duplex so there’s a new house mama and seven new girls,” she added. “They are transitioning really well.”
Holt said she spoke with Pastor Payot Jacques in Caracol a few days ago and he said the girls are doing “very well.”
“We are so excited,” she added. “It’s just hard and humbling at the same time. The girls are experiencing the love of family and they are being discipled by the local church.”
Holt said they have plans for additional expansion in the coming years, but hope to begin with the Strong Tower kitchen.
“Our kitchen is outside the orphan home and in Haiti kitchens are usually in a separate building,” she said. “It’s a separate building behind Strong Tower. With the growth they have already they said ‘if we could be a little bigger that would be great.’”
Holt added that the kitchen expansion would be next on the agenda.
“We do have a new shade house garden on the property,” she noted. “The men who went with us in March built a chicken house. We have three acres and it’s so beautiful, there’s mangoes that grow and pineapples that grow. The gardens do very well.
“We really have a vision that we could grow most of our food right there on site,” she added. “When we were there in March there was a huge field of black beans. So that’s wonderful … that’s all part of Strong Tower.”
Holt said in the next two years they hope to begin on a boys’ duplex at Strong Tower.
“That’s certainly in the plans,” she said. “We’d like to run for a little while and see how things are going. You know, look at the design of the orphan home to see if there are things we would do differently and get feedback from our staff.”
Nov. 4-12 a first-ever medical mission to Caracol, Haiti is planned.
“That is actually being led by a pediatrician from Whiteman Air Force Base, Dr. (Maj.) Christopher Wilhelm,” Holt said.
The medical mission will not only be for Strong Tower orphans, but also for the surrounding community. It will address infected wound care and eradication of parasites such as worms.
“We just feel the need,” Holt said. “We have a greater heart to be involved in the community there.”
Holt said Wilhelm explained that everyone would receive a vitamin and a pill for parasites.
“Dr. Wilhelm has stated that he’d like to do clinic for new moms and infants,” she added. “We just feel like Strong Tower was definitely called to care for orphans but if there’s ways that we can reach out in the community …
“We’ve been thinking about the medical mission for awhile, we just didn’t have any leadership for it,” Holt said.
Holt said she met Wilhelm at the local soccer field where her niece and the doctor’s daughter were playing a game. Wilhelm brought the subject up and offered to help.
“He said ‘I’ve lead a medical mission in Afghanistan and in Honduras with the military,’” she said. “So, Hearts for Haiti is for all of these things, for the girls at Strong Tower. It’s to help the people of Haiti.”
Holt said they are receiving a great number of items for the benefit auction.
“We have a quilt that’s been donated this year and the art from the schools are coming in” she added. “This year we’re having a live auction also, so we have theme baskets.”
Touch of Country Kennel in Cole Camp is offering a gift certificate for a free puppy. The winner of the certificate may choose from a German Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, mini Beagle, mini Australian Shepherd, Aussie doodle and Poogle puppy.
“Included in that is a bag of dog food, a dog brush and chew toys,” Holt said. “How fun is that!”
Touch of Country Kennel will have puppies on site to look at Friday evening.
Also new this year is a dinner to be cooked by Ben and Krista Kempton. They will serve a lasagna with salad, bread and dessert. Gluten-free lasagna will also be available.
“We have tickets this year because of the dinner,” Holt said.
A musical quartet from Smith-Cotton High School will be on hand to play throughout the evening and Sedalia artist and potter Barney Knight will be throwing clay on his pottery wheel. Artist Sarah Ives will also be providing painting demonstrations.
“We just love how God’s growing His heart for the orphan,” Holt added. “I just really feel that this is a great outpouring of His heart into ours, for children who don’t have families. In our case He’s called us to work in Haiti, but His heart, of course, is for the orphan everywhere.”
Hearts for Haiti begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 8 at FUMC Celebration Center, 1701 W. 32nd St. Tickets are $10 and are available by calling the Celebration Center at 827-2993 or at the door.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.