Hope for Haiti in El Centro

By Luke Phillips

Thanks to the generosity of Imperial Valley Residents, earthquake victims in Haiti will receive badly needed food, medicine, shelter and more.

The American Red Cross, working with the City of El Centro and the Imperial Valley Press, held a ‘Hope for Haiti’ event Thursday at the El Centro Town Commons. The event raised $3,528 for desperate Haitians by selling food, drinks, T-Shirts, and art donated by local artists. According to Sylvia Preciado, manager of the American Red Cross Imperial Valley Service Center, the donations are still pouring in.

“Someone just came in and wrote a check for $150 and someone else called and said they might donate $500,” Preciado said.

Preciado says that while large donations are appreciated, anything will help. “People say ‘what could $10 possibly provide?’, but it is enough to provide for 20 to 50 people for a day, to provide blankets or food. It adds up,” she said.

National Beef donated 200 lbs. of beef for Thursday’s event which was  made into tacos by Kennedy’s Katering. Salsa and tortillas were provided by Cadenas Market in El Centro. All proceeds from food sales went to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief.

Art was donated by several local artists for a silent auction that raised nearly $1,000 and the crowd was entertained by local musicians and fire dancers.

Representatives from Alford Distributing also stopped by and made a surprise donation of $500.

Preciado said that the Red Cross has 600 workers from all over the world working to provide relief in Haiti. There are also 2,500 volunteers from Haiti itself, but many of them are not able to help due to their personal situations.

Preciado says that the Red Cross is providing full scale relief operations in Haiti. “Every scope of the disaster is having to be addressed,” she said. “We’re operating to full compacity providing shelter, food, sanitation, and medical. We’re doing everything. We have three search-and-rescue teams working alongside other rescue teams from all over the world.”

Preciado says that while the American Red Cross has already raised more than $78 million dollars for Haiti relief, more is still needed. Most of the money that has been raised has already been spent and only about $7 million remains.

Imperial Valley Residents who want to contribute to the American Red Cross Hatian Relief Fund can visit the Imperial Valley Service Center at 781 Broadway in El Centro to make a contribution in person, or they can visit http://www.redcross.org/ to make a secure donation online. Local cell phone users can also text the word ‘Haiti’ to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS to make a donation over the phone.

Preciado says that disease is one of the main concerns in Haiti right now, and that much of the money donated will go toward preventing the spread of disease by building sanitation stations with latrines and educating Haitians about hand washing and other disease-preventing measures. “We already have a problem with disease with all the human bodies everywhere,” Preciado said. “We don’t need human waste in the sidewalks too.”

Preciado says that relief operations are going to be an on-going process with no real end in sight. “It’s going to be a very demanding operation,” she said. “This is the single most damaging disaster that Red Cross has ever responded to in our history. I remember the World Trade Center and Katrina and the Tsunami and the California Wildfires and I keep thinking wow, it will never get worse than this. I hope I’m right this time. But Red Cross will always be there and that’s very reassuring.”