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Auburn hearts – and pocketbooks – open for Haiti relief effort

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn area is continuing to keep Haiti in its heart, with everyone from school kids to service club members stepping up to donate. At least two schools are collecting, with the Lake of the Pines area’s Cottage Hill Elementary setting up a collection point for the many parents and students to donate during drop-off and pickups. At Skyridge School, two classes of students have been collecting “Pennies for Haiti” And members of the Auburn Rotary Club have also been digging deep to help with Haiti relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 quake that devastated the nation and killed an estimated 200,000 people. The Rotary Club board voted last week to donate $1,000 to the Rotary Club International Foundation’s Haitian assistance fund and members chipped in with another $1,295 in individual donations, Secretary Treasurer Bill Jansen said. “We thought we might buy some tents but then found out it would be better to send cash,” Jansen said. Fifteen Auburn Rotary Club members made individual donations of usually $100. Jansen said he and others have donated to other Haitian relief causes, as well. Jansen, whose father was Auburn Rotary treasurer for 40 years, said he made his donation to Doctors Without Borders. Why the fuss over a Caribbean nation on the other side of North America? “It’s the magnitude of the disaster,” Jansen said. “I was reading an article today in the Wall Street Journal about having food in the trucks for people but the trucks not being able to move.” Julie Barnum, a parent who is co-organizing the fund drive at Cottage Hill School, said that the funds being raised are going to Help for Haiti, the orphanage organization that helped Claire Bryditzki. The 7-year-old Haitian girl arrived after the earthquake in Auburn to live with her newly adopted family. A flight on billionaire Ted Turner’s private jet allowed her adoptive parents, Scott and Debbie Bryditzki, to fly her to the United States. Claire starts school at Cottage Hill on Monday. Barnum said that with little warning, two days of fundraising picked up $473. “This emanates from Claire’s story,” Barnum said. “We’re learning now that the orphanage is in desperate need of food. It’s outside of Port-au-Prince and by the time the trucks roll in, they’re empty. Kids have literally gone into their piggy banks to help.” At Skyridge Elementary in Auburn, teacher Ruth Casler’s second grade class has filled up a jar with coins and other classes are doing the same as they raise funds for Haiti relief. Casler said she expects several hundred dollars to be raised. “They’re old enough to understand being homeless, being without food, being without water, the hardships,” Casler said. Braden Pettigrew, 7, said his donation included 150 pennies his dad had found. “We’re helping because we want them to have money to build buildings again and have homes,” Braden said. “And to see that everyone gets fed,” added Sam Jose, 8.