Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pickerington kids have big hearts for Haiti

Observing children engaging in philanthropy at a young age to help their peers warms the heart. Meet two families in a Columbus, Ohio suburb who are working for the betterment of children at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in Haiti, approximately 1600 miles away from their homes in the United States.

Candy anyone?
Tussing Elementary School hosted it's annual Holiday Bazaar in early December. Among those who bought a table to offer their goods for sale were three siblings. But the trio wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary for your typical elementary and pre-school students.

Carleigh, Zach and Emily

Zach, Emily and Carleigh had been discussing the spirit of Christmas and giving opportunities with their parents. The children decided to participate in the Holiday Bazaar to sell their homespun treats. When asked what they would do with the money they earned, they unanimously decided to give 50% of the proceeds to The Red Thread Promise.

The children had seen a presentation on Haiti given by a Red Thread volunteer and were deeply moved by the plight of their peers in Haiti. On their own, they saw this as an opportunity to help.

And help they did.

Working with Grandma and Mom, they spent afternoons making chocolate lollipops in various shapes and colors. They also made decadent dark and peanut butter chocolate fudge. (Author's note: I highly recommend the peanut butter!) They packaged the goods, tying each with a piece of red ribbon.

Zach made the sign advertising their table and they asked us to provide some of our literature and a table sign. Each child manned the table, made change for sales, and accepted donations for The Red Thread. With each sale they gave out a Red Thread brochure and told people about the organization.

Together, they sold over $60 worth of chocolate that cold morning in Ohio and pledged $30 to The Red Thread. What an inspiration! We are hopeful that other children will follow their hearts for a cause they believe in like Zach, Emily and Carleigh did.

Zach and his candy shop sign

Sweet treats for sale amidst TRTP literature

Carleigh helped to man the table

Grandma and Emily drumming up business

Hands on in Haiti
While some do fundraising and awareness campaigns, other children choose a more hands-on approach. At only 13, Hana will be the youngest volunteer to travel with The Red Thread on a mission trip. She will be accompanying the group in February 2011 to work at St. Vincent's.

Initially, her parents challenged her to raise $500 toward her trip. By babysitting, petsitting and doing other odd jobs, she raised the money in a short period of time, following which her parents asked if she thought she could raise the entire $1,500. She said yes and the rest is history.

The creative juices began to flow and she hosted her own ice cream social. Kids played games and friends came to play their musical instruments for a mini-concert. A fishbowl, that was available for donations, sat next to the ice cream with all the fixin's and ice-cold cherry limeaids. It was a huge success.

After sharing her story with a friend at her church, they suggested that she speak at all 3 church services. Hana worked with her mom to prepare her speech, selected photos to be displayed during the presentation and confidently spoke in front of hundreds of people at a local United Methodist church.

Hana speaking at one of the church services

Here is a portion of her speech:
The Red Thread began working in Haiti before the earthquake, but the severity of the damage made the group’s work there even more critical. Much of our focus in recent months has been in this tiny country.

I will be traveling to Port-au-Prince in early 2011 to help assemble and distribute specialized all terrain wheelchairs. These wheelchairs are specifically made for use in third world countries with rough terrain. We will be distributing the majority of the wheelchairs to children at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped children that is one block away from the Presidential palace. I will also be working at St. Vincent’s for several days, which provides a home, school, church and clinic for disabled children. Disabled children are treated very poorly in Haiti, worse than we can imagine.

We will also be visiting Rivers of Hope orphanage in Petionville, delivering diapers, vitamins and other supplies for children. I can’t wait to play with the babies and meet Christopher, a little boy with sickle cell anemia that The Red Thread has supported for the past 2 years.

I am choosing to go on this trip because I believe that this is a very important cause and that I think that this is a problem that I can help solve. Through God’s word, I believe that I can help shine light on their critical situations and give them hope and comfort.

Our trip has been postponed several times because of Hurricane Thomas, the riots, and the cholera epidemic and most recently, the elections. The tentative dates are February 7 – 14th. Please pray for our group, for our safety when we travel and that we can make a difference.

I think this will be a life changing experience that I can share with everyone when I come back.
It is our children that provide us hope for a better future. Thank you to all of the kids out there who are doing something meaningful to help others. You are an inspiration to us all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thank you, St. Paul's!

Some of the gorgeous windows at St. Paul's

The sanctuary at St. Paul's

The partners: Randa El gayar, Sally Carlson,
Sadoni Leon (Director of St. Vincent’s), Tom Landry II,
Kathy Korge Albergate, Scott Albergate,
Sonya Yencer at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church–Lakeview

Meeting with Fr. Sadoni to discuss the future of St. Vincent's
(from left to right, Fr. Sadoni, Kathy, Tom)

Back in October, we announced our partnership with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church-Lakeview (New Orleans, LA) and the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana to help rebuild St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children School and Clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As 2010 comes to a close and totals are tallied, we are thrilled with the first fruits of this partnership and excited for what this means for St. Vincent's.

Churches and parishioners from AR, AZ, CA, HI, LA, MA, MD, NJ, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, the UK, UT, VA, VT and WI have donated funds in excess of $33,000 to help send All Terrain Wheelchairs, canes, crutches, tarps and medical equipment to St. Vincent’s.

In addition to the donations mentioned above, some of the same churches and parishioners have donated to The Red Thread Promise to support Rivers of Hope orphanage in Haiti, ensuring that the little ones have food, clean water and the medical attention they need year-round. Their generosity goes farther still in support of the babies at Swallows Nest Children's Home in China, providing special needs orphans with spina bifida surgery, formula and ongoing medical care.

Small donations come together to form large donations that make a big difference in the lives of these exceptional children, from Haiti to China. If you are one of these donors, please give yourself a huge hug from all of us at The Red Thread Promise.

We also ask that you continue to keep us and St. Vincent’s in your thoughts and prayers. Our work there has only begun. Based on the request of Fr. Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent's, our resources have gone to supplies for the center. In time, we will focus on equipping their clinics and partnering to rebuild part of the facility.

In the meantime, we continue to raise funds and awareness for St. Vincent’s for wheelchairs ($325 each), equipment for the blind (approximately $20,000) and clinics, along with clean water and food on a regular basis. Quite a lofty goal, but we together can do it!

Friday, December 17, 2010

JACOB'S FUND - Tony update

Tony riding "Joe"

Many of you may remember Tony from our post back in December 2009. For those of you who haven't heard of him, he is a sweet eighteen-year-old with Autism that we have supported through therapeutic riding at McKenna Farms. Tony’s life situation has been precarious over the past year as he watched his mother's health deteriorate due to esophageal cancer. Regrettably, we learned that Tony’s mom died in August, just a week before he participated in the Equestrian Program of the Special Olympics.

Thankfully, Tony is in good hands: the hands of his father who he lives with and loves him; the hands of his aunt who helps out; the hands of his aide who drives him to his therapy appointments, one of the only constant things in his life; and, of course, the horse handlers and therapists at McKenna Farms.

Unfortunately, this critical therapy is at risk since the family's financial resources were drained during his mother's treatment. Helping Tony continue his riding is an urgent need that has been placed on our hearts. For about $3,000, we can fund his therapeutic riding for a year. A regular riding schedule is important for his growth and his ability to cope with autism and the stress of losing his mother.

Please consider supporting this young man in our effort to provide this much-needed piece of stability in his life. If you are interested in supporting Tony, checks can be made out to The Red Thread Promise and sent to the address on the upper right of the blog. A PayPal option is also available in the sidebar on the right. Please be sure to mark your contribution with "Tony" in the memo line.

A little about the farm
McKenna Farms began in 2001 with ten kids, one therapist, and two horses. In nine years, it has grown to serve 200 kids, with nine therapists and ten horses. There is a growing interest in this treatment because hippotherapy gives amazing results. For more information about hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, visit the AHA website.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Say goodbye to slippery tracks

The arena at McKenna Farms

Though winter in Dallas, Georgia, doesn’t mean several feet of snow or temperatures hovering near freezing for weeks on end, it does mean cold, wet weather. And that spells slippery tracks for riding and hippotherapy sessions for the kids The Red Thread Promise supports at McKenna Farms.

“We’ve had to cut back on our schedule in the last few weeks because the mud makes it unsafe for both the kids and horses,” Jessie Moore, McKenna Farms director, said when we talked with her recently.

Maintaining these regular weekly sessions for the children are critical. Sessions translate into improved skills and better outcomes for the special needs kids who come to the farm.

Soon, though, weather concerns will be a thing of the past. The framework for a covered riding arena is already up, and the arena is scheduled for completion in the next couple of months.

We’re proud that we’ve been able to contribute nearly $4,000 to McKenna Farms through Jacob's Fund for therapy in 2010. That’s 14 sessions, more than one a month. Thank you so much to those who have made this treatment possible for these children. They are grateful and so are we!

It is our goal to double that number in the coming year. With your help, we can and will achieve that goal. If you have a heart for children with disabilities in the United States, please consider making Jacob's Fund a part of your family's giving plan for 2011. Whether large or small, the donations add up and allow us the opportunity to touch the lives of these children forever.

Change for change

Sure, we've all heard that every little bit makes a difference. But The Red Thread Promise is living proof that your pocket change can transform a child's life.

Penny Blessings is one of the many programs of The Red Thread Promise, but was specifically designed to be an easy way to give for children, seniors and everyone in between.

While some folks have excess, others do not. The Red Thread respects the differences in the socio-economic backgrounds of our donors. Penny Blessings is a way for those who possess the spirit of giving, but not necessarily the means, to contribute in a meaningful way.

Over the years, we have collected thousands of dollars in loose change that has made a difference in the life of a child. Take for example, these 4 donors:
  • A senior citizen from New Jersey collected her change and donated $217.06.
  • A couple in Hawaii saved the left over change from purchasing soda and donated $894.80.
  • Another senior citizen from Texas has sent $186.00.
They each collected their change and then sent a check in that amount to The Red Thread. Their contributions are significant, especially when combined together, totaling $1,297.86.

At this giving level, we can pay for multiple hospitalizations and medications for a child in Haiti or provide 6 hippotherapy sessions in the United States. If we had 9 more donors giving at these levels, we could pay for an entire spina bifida surgery in China, which costs approximately $5,000! It's amazing what a little loose change can do.

If you are interested in taking part in Penny Blessings, we offer a coffee can label that you can print out and put on your own can. It works well at home, in an office space, or any other space you can think of. Email and she will send you a label.

Your pennies can and will turn into a blessing for a child in need of medical treatment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blanket gallery

Here are some of the blankets that we have given away over the years. Each is beautiful with its own unique combination of colors, patterns and style. If we had taken photos of each and every one, this blog could go on for days.

Wrap your Arms 'Round Me

A sampling of the beautiful blankets donated today

This evening, The Red Thread Promise donated 2 boxes full of handmade kid-size blankets, shawls, scarves and hats to The Open Shelter in Columbus, Ohio. These items will be given to parents of young children who are either homeless or in dire straits.

The Red Thread has been collecting and distributing handmade blankets as part of our WARM Ministry (Wrap your Arms 'Round Me) for years. Volunteers help provide love, warmth and comfort to a needy child by donating hand-made shawls or fleece blankets. We work with community knitting and sewing groups, schools, church organizations and senior citizens who create blankets which we send wherever we see a need. For some children, these are the only items that are truly their own which makes them extra special.

Over the years, many of the blankets have been given to people in the Appalachia areas of the Midwest. However, this year they are being used in urban areas of Columbus, Ohio.

In late summer and into fall, the City of Columbus recognized that the shelters in the area were full much earlier than in recent years. Back in October, one emergency shelter reported that they were "serving a record 82 families at a building designed for 50". Numerous articles on the situation were published in the Columbus Dispatch. This particular article really touched the hearts of The Red Thread and the decision was made to support the inner-city children of Columbus.
Historically, the need for family housing peaks during the warm-weather months.

"Usually we see a spike in the summer," said Adrienne Corbett, executive director of the Columbus-based Homeless Families Foundation. "But it isn't summer anymore."

The opposite is true for homeless singles, who typically seek shelter in large numbers when the weather turns cold.

This year is different. "During all the warm-weather months, we have had waiting lists at all of our adult shelters," Ward said. "We're gravely concerned about what the cold-weather months may bring this year."
As temperatures in Columbus dropped into the single digits this week, we knew our blankets could make a difference in the community.

THANK YOU to all of you who have knitted and crocheted these beautiful blankets. The hours spent creating these unique pieces of functional art reveal the heart of the giver. The people who receive them will surely know that someone out there cares for them in their time of need.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Haiti Connection

The Haiti Connection conference last month was very productive. Approximately 350 people attended the 10th annual Haiti Connection conference in Miami. Clergy and interested parties representing 32 US states, Washington DC, the Caymen Islands, Jamaica, Canada and a large delegation from Haiti joined together to discuss how Episcopal, Presbyterian Churches and others can support the people and country of Haiti.

The schedule was packed and Kathy represented us well to the different groups in attendance. Much great information was shared and the Diocese's initial plan to rebuild in Haiti was laid out. Kathy was able to attend all 3 days and took special interest in the breakout sessions on healthcare and St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children.

Being the thorough note-taker that she is, she took FOURTEEN pages of notes. In an effort not to make the blog trail on for days, below is a super-summary of those notes, including some key facts regarding the devastation of the earthquake as well as the Diocese's priorities in rebuilding.

As per our mission, The Red Thread Promise will focus on supporting the children of St. Vincent's, helping to provide for their day-to-day needs, arranging medical care as necessary, bringing medical teams and supplies to the center, and partnering with others to rebuild the facility. It is our goal to restore a life of normalcy to these exceptional children.

Haiti Connection
Miami, Nov 3 – 5, 2010

  • 1,500,000 million people in Haiti affected by earthquake
  • 1,000,000 +/- people currently living in tent cities
  • 250,000+ died in the quake
  • Episcopal Diocese damage: $8,000,000,000 loss
  • 31% church
  • 50% schools
  • 80% secondary schools
  • 25% higher education
  • 33% rectory/guest housing
Kesner Pharel, the first keynote speaker, spoke from the government’s point of view and outlined the country’s 4 main pillars of their efforts: territorial, economic, social and institutional rebuilding. The Haitian government has promised to turn the disaster into an opportunity to make it an emerging country by 2030. Pharel concluded with these critical thoughts:
  • US and other countries should not just give money to Haiti.
  • Pulling together, we need to invest in Haiti.
  • Send knowledge so Haitians can help pull their own country out of poverty.
Remarks were given by The Rt Rev Jean Jacques Duracin, Bishop of Haiti, who outlined the 10 projects that the Church will focus on during the initial rebuilding efforts. Each was selected due to their Episcopal and community outreach, including:
  • Holy Trinity Cathedral (HTC): A sacred place of worship and culture in Port-au-Prince, originally built to honor the first Bishop of Haiti. HTC’s school was unique in the country, hosting 4,000 students, many of which were killed in the quake
  • St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children School and Medical Facility (SVC): The 65 year old center was the first school in Haiti to take care of disabled children. Located one block away from the Presidential palace, SVC serves some of the most disadvantaged children in the city—blind, deaf and mute children and other physical disabilities—with ages ranging from 5 to 16, sometimes older. SVC provides not only a home for these exceptional children, but also a school, clinic, church and extended family.
  • Music school: A unique place and treasure for Haitians.
  • University: A small but critical university in Haiti that is able to offer higher education that meets the financial needs of the students.
  • Seminary: The oldest institution of the church in Haiti provides training for clergy and lay leaders.
  • Hospital
LONG RANGE PLANS were shared covering the following topics:
  • Education (Dr. Lucien Bernard)
  • Long Range Health Care (Hilda Alcindor, R.N.)
  • Development (The Rev. Frantz Cole)
  • Financial Accountability / Communication (The Rev. P.J. Woodall)
The Rev. Sadoni Leon and The Rev. Canon Bill Squire
during the breakout session for St. Vincent's

BREAKOUT SESSION – St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children
  • The Rev. Canon Bill Squire
  • The Rev. Sadoni Leon, Director, St. Vincent’s Center
  • Hope Lennartz, Friends of St. Vincent’s
Discussion focused on immediate needs of the Center (food, clean water, wheelchairs, crutches, blind walking sticks, brailers, school supplies, clinic supplies, ramps for wheelchairs, computers, musical instruments, etc) as well as the long-range plan to rebuild an accessible, safe facility for disabled children.

Part of the rebuilding plan for St. Vincent's