Pictures from Haiti make the devastation from the recent earthquake seem almost palpable. Many people have answered the cry for help — among them the churchgoers of Hernando County.
Bill Yoos is a member of the board of International Village of Hope, a mission that operates an orphanage in Port au Prince and two schools nearby that are supported by his church, Nativity Lutheran in Weeki Wachee.
Earlier this month, church members received both good and bad news.
"The school buildings and the orphanage are still standing — damaged, but in relatively good shape," Yoos said. "The pastor (director of the schools) is unharmed, as is his family and his home. The director of the orphanage is also okay. We were saddened to hear, however, that the principal of one of the schools died in the quake."
Two students, one from each school, were also casualties.
"We were planning a trip in March, but that's on hold," said Yoos, who has made five mission trips to Haiti since 2002.
Meanwhile, the church is collecting monetary donations and medical supplies.
Aleta Harris, administrative assistant at Spring Hill Calvary Church of the Nazarene, said her church has sent money for relief efforts being conducted by the denomination and about 90 crisis kits.
The kits contain personal items and a small stuffed toy for a child.
"It is a package of small but practical items that make a big difference to people who are left with little or nothing," Harris said. "We will continue to pray, because we are a people of prayer."
Spring Hill Bible Church is part of a network of churches that participate in Rapid Response Ministry, a division of the World Relief Ministry of Baptist Mid-Missions.
"The main purpose of the ministry is to put together a team of laymen from local churches that will … assist with cleanup, delivery of supplies and other needs," said church administrator Norm States. "At the appropriate time, the teams will be called upon to help with the rebuilding efforts."
Currently, the church is collecting funds that will be used by the denomination's missionaries in Haiti to help meet the immediate physical and spiritual needs.
Shortly after the earthquake, John Roy from Proceeding Word Ministries in Brooksville began looking for ways to help. Some ministries were not yet able to get supplies into the country, so the church began collecting money to be dispersed by Harvest International, a missionary outreach with a school in Port au Prince.
St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Spring Hill took up collections at two weekend masses and received more than $33,500 to be distributed through Catholic Relief Services.
A letter to parishioners from a sister parish in St. Pierre in Terrier Rouge let them know that they had no damage there and thanked them for their "many concerns and good wishes, but especially for your prayers."
Members of the Baha'i community made a contribution to the National Baha'i Fund.
"These funds will then be forwarded to the Baha'i World Center for relief support in Haiti," said Dori Peloquin, noting that individuals from the community also donated through other organizations and that the children's class raised $14 that was donated to the Salvation Army.
Two children from the Temple Beth David Irwin Lieberman Religious School in Spring Hill also wanted to help.
"Grayson and Ethan Stein started their own small-scale effort by contributing their personal allowance money," said the school's principal, Jill Pfluke.
One of the children has a classmate with relatives in Haiti.
Inner Peace Church of the Spirit in Brooksville had a yard sale last weekend, designating all proceeds for Haitian relief.
Money from the sale, including donations, is being sent to Partners in Health, which operates in Haiti.
Dr. Adel Eldin said that all of the mosques in the Tampa Bay area recently donated money to Islamic Relief USA, which opened a special account to help with relief efforts in Haiti.
Bishop Robert Lynch has asked St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church in Spring Hill to take up a special collection for Haiti, said parish business manager Marie Ulasewich.
The money will be sent through the diocese to Catholic Relief Services.
Mary Ann Phaup of Brooksville Wesleyan Church and her husband, Raymond, participated in a mission trip to Haiti several years ago.
"That is such a sad situation over there," Mrs. Phaup said. "I cannot imagine what they are going through."
Brooksville Wesleyan took up a special offering that will be used by World Hope International to help the people of Haiti.
Suncoast Christian Church-Disciples of Christ of Brooksville said members have and will continue to contribute to Haitian relief monetarily. Contributions will be delivered through the denomination's headquarters in Indianapolis.
The Nature Coast Baptist Association is coordinating relief efforts for local association members, including First Baptist Church of Hernando Beach, which took up an offering after a missionary to Haiti spoke at the church earlier this month.
Frank Prestigiacomo, executive pastor at Grace World Outreach Church in Brooksville, said the Assembly of God's Convoy of Hope has been helping in Haiti.
"We have teams in Haiti meeting food and medical needs right now. … We have encouraged our church family to donate and will be receiving another special offering," Prestigiacomo said.
The Florida Baptist Convention has had ministries in Haiti for more than 20 years, and Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill took up a collection to help with the convention's relief efforts earlier this month.
"We collected over $9,300 for immediate disbursement toward emergency aid in Haiti," said ministry assistant Jackie Laird.
Additional contributions can be made through their church, she said.
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Spring Hill took up a collection on Sunday as part of a coordinated effort by congregations of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, which will forward funds to International Orthodox Christian Charities, already working to provide humanitarian aid in Haiti.
Ridge Manor Community United Methodist Church is supporting efforts to send aid by way of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Health kits, along with food and water, are also being distributed.