The Central Nassau Rotary Club held an emergency meeting after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Aug. 25, and decided to donate $10,000 to two organizations that were helping out in the crippled island nation.
Bill Youngfert, co-president of the Rotary Club, said that it chose to make the donation after hearing about the devastation the earthquake left behind. The club was specifically moved by the details of blocked deliveries of supplies and the lack of shelter for children who were left homeless. “Some roads in the southern area are impassable and shelter is a big problem also,” read a statement the organization released about its donation. “We heard one story about how a newborn infant died overnight due to lack of shelter.”
The Rotary Club donated to three organizations: Project St. Anne, an international grass-roots nonprofit established by Haitian Americans in 2008; Health Education Action League for Haiti, known as HEAL Haiti, a nonprofit that trains and mobilizes young leaders in Haiti to improve health care; and the Rotary Club in Haiti, which helps people in need.
Multiple members of the Rotary Club, which also sent money to Haiti after an earthquake in 2010 left over 200,000 dead, according to some estimates, are of Haitian descent and have family there.
The club, which serves Elmont, Franklin Square, Westbury and West Hempstead and is well known in the sizable Haitian community in Elmont and across Nassau County, wanted to make an effective donation that would help as many Haitians as possible. Unable to hold its annual fundraising dinner in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the club’s members and its supporters raised the money themselves, Youngfert said.
This, he said, was a “substantial donation for our organization.”
A major concern for the club was getting the funds to organizations on the ground in Haiti that can be trusted to help its people. After the 2010 earthquake, the FBI and other governmental agencies warned of fraudulent charities that were not distributing funds and supplies.
“We wanted to make sure the money actually helps people with needs,” Youngfert said. “It’s unfortunate on the island: There is no support structure in place to get help to people; there’s nowhere to go … it breaks our hearts.”
State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, the first person of Haitian descent to serve in the New York State Legislature, said she appreciated the donation. “I really approved of the Central Nassau Rotary Club’s donation,” she said. “It was humbling.”
Solages applauded the club for donating to organizations recommended by its members of Haitian descent, who are familiar with charities there that have low administrative costs and distribute the majority of donations they receive to people in need.
“We need to build a bridge to recovery,” Solages said. The goal, she said, should be to empower and inspire the people of Haiti, and help them mount a recovery from the earthquake, as well as the political and social crises the nation faces.
“There has been an outpouring of support from people of all demographics,” Solages said, noting the donations made by people in Elmont, Franklin Square and across Nassau County. “The people of this community support Haiti and its success.”
In fact, she said, as a result of a donation drive she held last month, immediately after the earthquake, her office needed to purchase a larger truck to transport the donations of medical gowns, syringes and other supplies.
She urged community members to continue to pray for and keep Haiti in their thoughts, and she advised those wanting to donate to its recovery to work with trusted organizations such as HEAL Haiti.
In its Aug. 25 statement, the Rotary Club noted that Solages’s office was coordinating the collection of monetary donations, medical supplies and personal hygiene products that were to be transported to Haiti soon. Those interested in donating can call Solages’s office at (516) 599-2972.
“Haiti will recover from this,” she said.