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Your neighbors are working hard to help Haiti

Sherry Burnette, co-founder of the Love-A-Child mission that has an office in Riverview, stands in front of a Haitian grocery store destroyed by the earthquake. Burnette, who lives at an orphanage with her husband and co-founder, Bobby, shopped in the store just hours before the quake hit.

Special to the Times

Sherry Burnette, co-founder of the Love-A-Child mission that has an office in Riverview, stands in front of a Haitian grocery store destroyed by the earthquake. Burnette, who lives at an orphanage with her husband and co-founder, Bobby, shopped in the store just hours before the quake hit.

From outside, it appears to be just another office in a business complex on U.S. 301.

But inside, Love-A-Child is a beehive of activity. Volunteers pack boxes with supplies. Telephones ring. Callers worry. And staffers pray.

For 30 years, Love-A-Child co-founders Bobby and Sherry Burnette have led a missionary effort in Haiti. They live at an orphanage and oversee 14 other schools, churches and feeding programs. Their efforts impact more than 6,000 Haitian children.

Love-A-Child maintains a sponsorship program for orphans, so many of the calls coming into its Riverview office are from concerned sponsors.

The orphanage did not suffer major damage, but many of the children attend other schools that dot the island.

Since the earthquake, Love-A-Child has sent tons of supplies to aid relief efforts. Inquiries come from as far away as Greece and the Philippines, but few are from the local area. Three years ago, the Burnettes relocated the operation from Naples to Riverview.

"We're the best kept secret in Tampa Bay," said Rad Hazelip, Love-A-Child special projects director.

The organization would love for that to change. In Haiti, the Burnettes are doing all they can to help. But the need seems to be intensifying, with the couple giving the United Nations permission to use the orphanage's land for extended relief efforts.

You can make monetary donations online at loveachild.com or deliver supplies to the Riverview location at 9304 Camden Field Parkway between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Call for directions at (813) 621-7263.

You probably won't find feminine hygiene products on the typical list of relief supplies. But they're no less important to a woman's health and peace of mind.

Cyndie Salas and her 11-year-old daughter, Gabby, first recognized the unmet need while watching interviews in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A woman said she sat on a cot in the Superdome for three days because her period started, and she had no feminine products.

"It just triggered something," Salas said. "No woman should ever be in that situation. My daughter looked at me and said, 'Mom, we need to start something.' "

Gabby started jotting down ideas on how they could put together packages for disaster victims and battered women.

Cyndie shelved the idea as she began helping her husband with a new physical therapy business at Winthrop in Riverview. Then came the Haitian earthquake.

PinkDrop.Org will have its inaugural event today at the Barn on Bloomingdale Avenue at Winthrop. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., volunteers will collect and secure products, including feminine pads, feminine wipes, antibacterial hand sanitizer, panty shields, ChapStick, diapers, formula and multivitamins.

Salas said the effort already has yielded a significant response.

"People want to do something, and women especially want to do something," Salas said. "It's a united front."

• • •

The beauty of both these relief efforts lies in the desire to go beyond themselves.

It's easy to look away, but the right thing isn't always the easy thing.

That's all I'm saying.

FAST FACTS

More ways to help

Organizations throughout Hillsborough County are collecting supplies for Haiti.

Drop-off locations include Mango Radio at 8405 Himes Ave.; Bethanie Seventh-day Adventist Haitian Church at 10401 N Florida Ave.; Family Cuisine at 2001 N Florida Ave.; and Calvary Church at 5610 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Find out more at mymangoradio.com.

There is a collection site for Kalos International at Benito Middle School at 10101 Cross Creek Blvd. in New Tampa. Medical and baby supplies dropped off by 4:30 p.m. Friday will be flown out on Saturday, every week as needed.

Additionally, the University of South Florida has a Haitian student organization. Find out more at ctr.usf.edu/kreyol.

In Ruskin, Dr. Hal Ott is accepting donations to provide medical care and food for Haitians. Ott, a veterinarian, opened a medical clinic in Haiti in 2007. Send donations to the Ruskin Animal Hospital, 715 U.S. 41 S, Ruskin, FL 33570 or drop them off at SouthShore Community Bank in Apollo Beach.

Your neighbors are working hard to help Haiti 01/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:47pm]
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