In 2001, St. James Church in Cazenovia was asked to become involved in partnering with a mission church, St. Ives Parish, in the rural village of Thibeau, Haiti. Its response: Yes.
"The first year we raised and sent money but something was tugging at my heart," said parishioner and retired commercial developer Bob Hood. "I needed to put a face on what was there."
Since his first visit nine years ago, Hood has returned more than 30 times, and mission goals through partnering have been obtained tenfold. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised to provide families with safe drinking water; a church, rectory and school (St. Joseph's) have been built; food and supplies are regularly sent to a local orphanage and students are provided with schooling, uniforms and daily meals through annual funding.
Hood's dedication to serve the needs of the Haitian people firsthand has flourished, and an ever-growing coalition called Alliance for Haiti has been established. Numerous individuals and organizations throughout Central New York are contributors in the charge to better the poverty-stricken area: Ruth Colvin of Literacy Volunteers started a literacy program. Dave Eldridge, a Cazenovia dentist, is developing a viable dental program. Local teachers Georgette Schmidt and Karen Dross have traveled to Thibeau to help with teacher training. Park Central Presbyterian Church of Syracuse has funded teacher training, a laptop computer and supplies for St. Joseph's School. Eastern Hills Bible Church in Manlius has made generous donations to expand the safe water program and the Syracuse Century Club held an auction to help fund future building. Most recently, the United Church of Fayetteville has joined the alliance, with goals to raise funds for a playground at St. Joseph's School. Its annual Syracuse University Brass and Bells Choir, to be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday Dec. 12 at the church on East Genesee Street, will benefit Haiti through attendees' free-will offerings.