PIQUA – The “Home for the Holiday” fundraiser sponsored by the Piqua Rotary Club on Dec. 1 kicked off earlier that day when an Edison State Community College student en route to class stopped to inquire why AVI Chef Don Walters was constructing a brick house centerpiece for the reception that evening in the college’s atrium. Walters replied it was the cornerstone for an event dedicated to raise money and build homes for Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake.
From the time the student handed Walters a $5 bill to the end of the gala, when a benevolent couple offered to purchase four homes at a cost of $6,400 each, the day was a welcomed Christmas gift for Rotarians who generated in excess of $70,000 or the equivalent of 10 homes for the Haitians who have remained in tent cities the past six years. And, even better, monies collected are being matched by an anonymous donor doubling the number of homes to be built in 2017.
Rotary’s World Service Chair Sharon Semanie said the successful event, which was held in partnership with the international relief organization Food for the Poor, was “nothing short of a miracle” adding that monies continue to arrive on a daily basis. An updated report is expected soon.
“Nearly one and one-half years ago, I was challenged by Ben Scott Sr. of Piqua to raise $6,400 within the Piqua community to build a home in Haiti,” said Semanie, who at the time had written a story in the Piqua Daily Call about Ben and Louise Scott’s efforts to redevelop Haiti together with neighbors in Boca Grande, Fla. Within the past six years, the group has worked tirelessly with Food for the Poor to provide over 227 homes, community centers, clinics and farm animals for Haitians described as the “poorest of the poor.”
Semanie turned to the Piqua Rotary Club, whose motto “Service Above Self” and initiatives parallel with the needs of the Haitians. Together with a committee comprised of President Diana Davis, Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds, Paul Gutmann, Melissa Leingang, Cheryl-Stiefel Francis, Scott Miller, Chuck Black, and Dr. Nancy Luce, Semanie and the World Service group focused their efforts on identifying sponsors and selling tickets for the Dec. 1, which attracted over 100 guests.
Ben Scott emceed a program in tandem with Angel Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor, who was as keynote speaker. Both provided an inspiring overview of Haiti’s impoverished situation and a video taken there in September.
The evening culminated when Mark Murphy of Piqua auctioned a week-long stay on Block Island, R.I., donated by former Piqua native Terri (Snipes) Chmiel along with several membership packages to Anytime Fitness.
In addition to the fundraiser, students at Rotary-sponsored Interact Clubs at Piqua and Lehman Catholic high schools responded enthusiastically to a “Pennies for Haiti” campaign. They challenged classmates at both schools to donate whatever amount they could around the Thanksgiving holiday. PHS to date has turned over nearly $750, with the winning fifth-period class of Kathy Hoying contributing $97.12 and awarded a pizza party. The LCHS Interact members collected $1,400, with the winning homeroom enjoying a breakfast prepared by Adviser Leah Bertke.
“We’re overjoyed with the response to this fundraiser,” noted Semanie, who attributes much of its success to generous sponsors and a healthy dose of “divine intervention.”
Many individuals have asked how they can contribute even though they were unable to attend. The Piqua Rotary Club has prepared cards for those who want to provide a gift in honor/memory of a loved one. These cards can be obtained by calling Semanie at (937) 615-9335 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations also can be mailed to the Piqua Rotary Club, P.O. Box 219 Piqua, OH 45356.
When asked his response to the Rotary event, Scott replied, “I am in awe of what has happened since the Piqua Rotary Club sponsored its fundraiser to raise money to build homes in Haiti. The generosity of so many people exploded, collecting to date over $70,000, far exceeded my expectations. At the event, I showed a video depicting the conditions in which the Haitian people are living and it is most horrific. No one should have to live like this. It must have touched many hearts because people responded generously.
“I want to thank all those kind and generous people who have given to this project and encourage others to consider helping. The money we have raised so far will build 10 homes for the Haitian people and for this they will be forever grateful. You cannot believe what a difference a home makes to a Haitian family.”
Rotary President Diana Davis added, “I am pleased that Piqua Rotary was able to team up with Ben Scott Sr. for this worthy cause. Rotary is an international organization committed to service, our local community and the world. We are a strong organization because, as members, we pool our resources and use our talents to serve our communities. These ideas are best expressed in our motto ‘Service Above Self.’
“I am proud of our local club for its support in this Haitian project to help the citizens of this proud country to rise above the devastation of the many hurricanes which have ripped through one of the most hurricane-prone countries in the world. We are local Rotarians serving humanity and building homes in Haiti one block at a time.”