Over the past six months, local residents have been continuing the canned and non-perishable food drive kicked off by Assemblyman Tom Alfano, Senator Dean Skelos, Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP) and local organizations to address the children's starvation crisis in Haiti. The donations from the relief effort have been steadily flowing to Haiti's needy survivors of Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna. According to Alfano, the donations have gone directly to children. The food and clothing drive is continuing with a constant flow of donations pouring in that have kept food drive volunteers busy even in the holiday season.
Elmont food drive coordinator David Duchatellier has been driving a friend's truck in his spare time to pick up donations from Franklin Square, Elmont, Bronx, Queens, North Valley Stream and Valley Stream. "On weekends and weeknights I take a drive, pick up the donations and come home. It's work but I know we are really making a difference," Duchatellier said.
"We get calls all the time in my office and we dispatch them to David who gets the donations and prepares them for shipment. I've gotten calls from New Jersey, White Plains, Manhattan and right here in the neighborhood. What we thought was going to be a food drive for a few months has turned into a real movement to help children," said Alfano, who started the effort after sitting in on a meeting organized by Duchatellier and Haitian leaders months ago.
That meeting manifested itself in the effort kicking off in Elmont with Alfano, Senator Dean Skelos, Haiti Consul General Felix Augustin, Duchatellier, HAUP, Elmont Superintendent of Schools Al Harper, Father Eddie Julien of St. Boniface Church, students from Elmont Memorial High School, Blessed Sacrament, Dutch Broadway, Howell Road, the Cornwell Avenue School, Alden Terrace School, Clara H. Carlson School and Gotham Avenue School, Norma DeBartolo of the Elmont School District, Sandra Smith, Haitian business leaders, cable television personality JoJo Allrich, businessman Frantz Simon, Elsie Saint Louis Accilien and Haitian health care and nursing workers.
"We started this drive because the starvation crisis was impacting the stability of many regions of Haiti. People were desperate for their children, and, in the face of this global tragedy, we had to do something. It's clear that this drive has truly made a difference for many Haitian children," said Alfano. "In the process, we've brought to light a humanitarian and world crisis that has been ignored by many. I wish I could say the crisis is over- but it's not. That's why we continue and encourage people to be a part of the solution."
The success of the food drive spearheaded by Alfano, Skelos, HAUP and Duchatellier has resulted in over 30 crate barrels of food and five barrels of clothing being sent to orphanages in Haiti. In the coming weeks, more food and clothing is being gathered for yet another shipment.
"The amount of food donated in this drive was extraordinary. People wanted to get involved and make a difference. When you think about it, this effort has been going strong for months. I'm proud of the community and their generosity. When Tom Alfano called me and asked me to get involved in this drive, I never would have thought of the impact we would continue to make in this drive," said Skelos.
The food drive shipments have made their way to several orphanages in Haiti. Children in Croix-des Bouquets Mariana, Mirbalais and Port-Au-Prince have been the recipients of shipments. Specifically, the orphanages of Orphinalet Craed, Orphelinate Hopital Espoir, Centre de Sante Communautaire Roche Blanche, Asile de L'Eglise de Dieu de Mariani, Orphelinat Foyer de la Divine Providence, Refuge des Enfants Demunis and Espoir Des Petits Anges D'Haiti were the recipients of the food drive shipments.
According to Alfano and Duchatellier, more food and clothing shipments are being prepared. "I never would have thought we would still be working on this drive in December," said Duchatellier. "The donations keep come coming and the people wanting to get involved is truly heartening. People can still get involved in this effort. We need all the support we can get."
Those wanting to donate food or clothing for the Haitian Children's Food and Clothing Drive can call Alfano's office at 437-5577.