GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - People around West Michigan are reaching out to survivors of the Haiti earthquake.
One church is holding a food and clothing drive. West Church of the Nazarene is predominantly made up of Haitian Americans.
In the cold of a West Michigan January, these people's minds are far away, in hot, earthquake devastated Haiti.
Pastor Mathieu Pierre of West Church of the Nazarene in Grand Rapids relates an e-mail he was sent by a relative in Haiti. He says, "The whole street was full of corpse, of dead bodies."
Pierre and 90% of his congregation are Haitian Americans. Pierre says, "Even I until now haven't been able to reach to my parents back there. But praise God I know that, thanks to God I know that they are okay. Many of our people are still trying to communicate. And they cannot get through until now."
Yet they gathered to collect donations. Basic items to ship to the earthquake survivors.
Haitian refugee Youwelta Thermelan calls out, "This was the dress she came to America with." Amidst the sense of tragedy, comes joy. Among the donated clothes, Thermelan found the dress her sister wore when they arrived in the United States 16 years ago. Her sister, Manoucheka Azard says, "I didn't even know it was in the bags my Mom had sent."
Thermelan continues, "I have a picture of all of us, in the airport, wearing a little sticker that said refugee. I have a picture with all of us wearing our little dresses. ... And look at us now. And I'm just so glad and thankful that we are here. And um, we are able to help the ones that are hurt."
Thermelan was just in Haiti in August, bringing her mother back to the United States. Now, her mother also helps sort clothes to send back to her homeland.
But the devastation is never far from anyone's mind at West Church of the Nazarene. At various times of the day, in her mind's eye, Thermelan says, "I just see moms holding their dead babies. And it's just, it's hard."
But, she continues, "Yesterday I said to myself. I said, you know what; we're not turning the TV on. Cause, I can't cry anymore."
Instead, she's trying to help.
Pastor Pierre says the church-goers also appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers because for these church goers the loss is personal. Pierre says, "Many of the people that attend the church here from Haiti, either come from Port au Prince or they have very close relatives in Port au Prince. Almost every one of them has lost some loved ones in this tragedy."
Many of the church members are still struggling to get in touch with relatives in Haiti. For example, Pastor Pierre has heard that his parents are okay, but has not actually been able to speak to them since the earthquake.
West Church of the Nazarene will continue to collect items to ship to Haiti. The church will be open for donations every weekday from 3 until 6 pm. Next Saturday, January 23 it will be open 2 until 6 pm. The church is located at 1313 Bristol Avenue NW in Grand Rapids.
The donated items will be shipped to Haiti through the organization Rays of Hope for Haiti with the first shipment likely to leave this coming week.