A group of Greeneville residents made significant progress in the construction of a special home in Haiti during a recent mission trip.
The group also made much-needed repairs to an orphanage dormitory and constructed a ramp for a wheelchair-bound woman.
Many in Haiti are still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2010 -- living in basic shelters constructed of tattered blue tarps.
In years past, tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Greene Countians have helped local missionaries traveling to Haiti construct a building to be used for church, school, and medical purposes.
Greene Countians who participated in this year's mission trip included Dwane Reed, Nathan Carter, Judy and Teddy Andies, Andy and Bill Ottinger, Javan Wilhoit, Kenan Wilhoit, Callie Casteel, Keith Ball and Jerlee Ottinger.
A Boone, N.C., man, Rick Coffey, also joined the group, who worked through an organization called Hearts, Hands and Hope for Haiti, Inc.
Ottinger, who has traveled to Haiti a number of times in the past 15 years, provided The Greeneville Sun with the following account of the trip.
PASTOR EDDIE'S HOME
"The primary goal of the trip was to finish construction of the home for a woman known as Pastor Eddie, or Madame Eddie.
"Though not totally completed due to the lack of sufficient time and money, progress was made in constructing this house, which is larger than most homes that are built in Haiti.
"Since Pastor Eddie provides support to Miss Phyllis Newby (Miss Phyllis), the larger home is required to store extra supplies for several villages that she oversees and for supplies to feed 200 in the school for which she is responsible.
"If Miss Phyllis is absent, Pastor Eddie assumes some of her responsibilities in distributing supplies to those in need.
"On previous trips, $65,000 provided by Greene County donations following the 2010 earthquake was used to construct the church/school for which Pastor Eddie is responsible."
"Where possible and when funds are available, Haitians are hired to assist with construction. Sixty dollars for six days of hard work is typical pay for the Haitians, with $120 for six days of work for more skilled labor [being a typical wage].
"In addition to the work on Pastor Eddie's home, the work group performed repairs to the boys' dorm at the orphanage and completed a room with a ramp for a wheelchair-bound lady.
YEARS OF WORK
"On previous trips, a multi-purpose building used for church, school, clinics, etc., for the people of 'City Blue' was built following the 2010 earthquake to provide a meeting place for the people living in the blue tarp homes erected by Samaritan's Purse.
"While in St. Ard, Haiti, the work group worshipped in this building on Sunday and were able to feed the people in the church and, courtesy of Samaritan's Purse, provided each person with a bag with four packs of rice that was nutritionally enhanced.
"Additionally, meals were distributed in two other needy communities.
"Sadly, three years later, hundreds of these tattered blue tarps still exist, providing the only shelter for many Haitians.
"Miss Phyllis, with assistance from various individuals and groups, has been responsible for building 28 permanent homes for local families living in 'City Blue.' Funding for one of these homes was provided by a local individual."
Ottinger's account continues, crediting a number of Greene County individuals for their support of missions in Haiti.
"Local individuals have generously supported this mission work with their time, energy and money.
"Javan Wilhoit, Callie Casteel, Andy Ottinger, Judy Andies, and others worked tirelessly to prepare used clothing for distribution to a village that had been washed away.
"Due to the generosity of Wayne Susong and George Sydnor following the closing of three local pharmacies, we were able to provide over-the-counter medications and medical supplies for the clinic along with other items that will be extremely useful to the people of Haiti.
"A local individual provided lumber for benches for the church and at the home where the children gather to play and have devotions and meals.
"When not assisting with construction, Kenan Wilhoit, a pre-med student, spent time with Dr. Ralph at the local medical clinic. Stomach problems and malaria were frequently-observed physical problems.
"Construction work was overseen by Rick Coffey with Hearts, Hands & Hope for Haiti, Inc.
"Local individuals who tirelessly assisted with repairs and construction included Nathan Carter, Billy Ottinger, Keith Ball, Dwane Reed and Teddy Andies."
CHRISTMAS TRIP PLANNED
Ottinger said another mission trip to Haiti is in the works for later this year.
"Plans are underway for another December trip to Haiti. At that time, it is hoped that Pastor Eddie's home can be completed and a roof and other badly needed repairs can be made to the boys' dormitory [at the orphanage].
"The 'Christmas Truck' [mission] is always exciting, as gifts are provided for children at the home.
"During the June mission trip, Javan Wilhoit, Callie Casteel and Jerlee Ottinger made a list of all the children with pictures, names and size of each child's foot to be used to provide gifts at Christmas.
"Those providing gifts for the children are requested to provide a good pair of school shoes and sandals and a toy or other suitable gift for each child. Though hard for Americans to imagine, there is no Walmart in Haiti!
"In addition to the gifts, the 'Christmas Truck' will transport several barrels of food for the home, tin for building since the tin that is available in Haiti is sub-standard, more wood for benches, blackboards, used clothing, and refurbished bicycles.
"The used bicycles are greatly appreciated by church leaders for their work.
"Last year at Christmas, due to the refurbishing efforts of Dr. Bob Hartman and Gene Waddell, 30 used bicycles were transported to Haiti.
"During the December [mission trips], 250 church leaders from various areas of Haiti come to the compound at St. Ard to collect supplies and clothing for their villages.
"They usually walk to obtain what we can supply and return home with the supplies [via] public transportation."
"During the month of August, First Church of God in Greeneville is collecting peanut butter for distribution along with the sacks of rice and beans provided by Miss Newby from other benefactors.
"A 53-foot trailer, generously donated by Landair Transport, is in Greeneville awaiting repairs before making its fifth trip to Haiti and back.
"Before receiving this gift, most trailers that were available for transport were in such poor condition that they did not justify the cost to return them to Greeneville for reloading.
"Supplies are loaded in Greeneville, and the trailer is then taken to Boone, N.C., for the loading of additional supplies.
"Rick Coffey drives the trailer to Miami, Fla., where the trailer is loaded on a boat and shipped to Haiti, where it is picked up.
"[The truck] remains locked until the local group arrives in Haiti ... to oversee distribution of the goods that have been collected.
"The cost for shipment of the trailer to and from Haiti each time is at least $10,000."
"Every other year, an attempt is made to provide the supported [Haitian] pastors with a suit, tie and shirt, as Miss Phyllis insists that they dress [nicely] when preaching on Sunday mornings.
"Donations of summer-weight suits and dress clothes for the pastors are always appreciated, as are other good used clothing for distribution.
"The local group works under the auspices of Hearts, Hands & Hope for Haiti, Inc., based in Boone N.C.
"This group is non-profit and has no administrative costs other than for regular audits.
"Rick Coffey and wife Debbie Coffey provide all mailings ... with no cost [incurred by] the organization.
"Coffey goes to Haiti several times a year with different groups. He recently spent six weeks in Haiti to complete the Greta House, built by Greta Van Susteren, of Fox News, and her husband through Samaritan's Purse.
"Since the earthquake in 2010, minor improvements in some areas can be observed, but much work remains.
"Most work is being done by small groups such as ours and through organizations such as Samaritan's Purse," Ottinger reported.
Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to Hearts, Hands, & Hope for Haiti, Inc., may do so by mailing to P.O. Box 1045, Blowing Rock, NC 28605.