HUGE ROTARY-LED EFFORT SEES 150 VOLUNTEERS PACK FOOD FOR HAITIAN RELIEF 

MADISON, CT - In one of the largest Rotary food relief efforts ever held in Connecticut, 150 Rotarians and volunteers from across the shoreline gathered in Madison on March 23 to package 46,000 meals for the struggling residents of Haiti.

The event, dubbed ‘Feed Our Neighbors,’ was organized by the six clubs from Area 8 of Rotary District 7980 (Branford, Clinton, East Haven, Guilford, Madison, and North Branford), and comes at a vital time for the island nation.

Nine years after the country of 11 million was devastated by an earthquake that killed 250,000 people, Haitians continue to suffer. Rubble still clogs the streets. Running water and electricity are hard to come by. Political upheaval, runaway inflation, and agonizingly slow efforts to rebuild have left many Haitians feeling abandoned.

Shoreline clubs have long strived to answer that call for help. For more than 20 years, District 7980 Rotary clubs have given financial, material, and professional support to Haiti. Many Connecticut Rotarians have also volunteered, at their own cost, to travel and assist at Haiti Health Foundation clinics. In 2018, the Area 8 Shoreline Rotary Clubs held a ‘Feed Our Neighbors’ event at which over 100 volunteers packaged 28,000 meals for Jeremie, Haiti. This year, the Rotary Area decided to double its efforts with all meals to be directed to people living in the villages under HHF’s umbrella, including the rural village of Dayere, where HHF recently re-constructed a health clinic.

“With so much instability, the needs in Haiti have become even greater,” said Assistant Governor Robert Friend of the Madison Rotary Club. “We knew we should do more, and all Shoreline Rotarians and members of the community stepped up to do just that.”

The 46,000 meals will be transported to Haiti by the Norwich-based Haitian Health Foundation (HaitianHealthFoundation.org), which has worked frequently with Rotary.

“We’re so grateful for the work Rotary does for our Haitian outreach,” said Marilyn Lowney, Haitian Health Foundation Executive Director. “In Haiti, the local currency is devaluing at an alarming rate, food and other essentials continue to rise in price, if they are even available. This aid is going to be so important.”

‘Feed Our Neighbors’ is run in conjunction with the Iowa-based Outreach Program, (OutreachProgram.org), which works to end hunger at home and abroad. Outreach, too, has worked with Rotary for years. Since 2011, Rotary clubs across the nation have worked with Outreach to pack more than 2.3 million meals, according to Matthew Martin, Regional Manager for Outreach. Members of District 7980 themselves have packed more than 261,000 of those meals in the past seven years, more than any Rotary district in New England. The March 23 event was one of the largest Outreach has ever held in Connecticut, Martin said.

“Rotarians truly live their motto: ‘Service Above Self,’” said Martin. “They take charge in every area of ending local hunger: raising money, getting district grants, inviting volunteers, stocking and sometimes even starting food pantries.”

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