Friday, 14 October 2016 11:28

Local Church Doubles Efforts to Help Haiti

BALLSTON SPA — This year, St. Mary’s Church at 167 Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa is doubling its efforts to raise money and Christmas shoeboxes for orphans in Haiti. St. Mary’s has been steadily helping Haiti for 14 years, and was there for them after the tragic January 12, 2010 earthquake. Now, after Hurricane Matthew, the devastation is so great that the church is reaching out to its neighboring communities in Saratoga County for some last-minute help. Doris Smith, one of the dedicated volunteers leading the charge in Ballston Spa, said the deadline for donating Christmas shoeboxes is fast approaching. “We need time to ship them to New Jersey and then to Haiti. We need the shoeboxes by Friday, October 21 at the very latest, or they won’t get there in time for Christmas,” she said. The church collects the gift-filled boxes after all the Saturday and Sunday Masses at the Church Garage, which is across from the school behind the church. During the week, boxes can be left at the school during school hours until October 21. They are sent to Father Giordano Belanich, Director of Croatian Relief Services in New Jersey, to ship boxes and food to the Cardinal Stepinac Children Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in time for Christmas. The Croatian Relief Service was formed at a sister church to Ballston Spa’s St. Mary’s down in New Jersey. As the name implies, it was formed during the refugee crises in Croatia, but once the war was over, the church shifted its fundraising arm to help Haiti, retaining its Croatian Relief Services name. Father Belanich has visited the orphanage run by nuns in Haiti many times, including recently, and is quite passionate about the conditions there. “Thousands of people, many are children, don’t have a home or food or anything,” he said in a telephone interview. “The shoeboxes will be appreciated more then ever. We’ll give it to the kids that lost everything in this hurricane. Our area, where our orphanage is, had serious floods but everyone survived and the orphanage is fine. But there’s about 80 miles of destruction, and people are lucky if they can earn a dollar a day. Here, I can get rice for $33 for a hundred pounds, but there it’s $75. How can they live; how can they survive?” Father Belanich suggests nothing fancy for Christmas gifts for the kids. There’s no electricity, so playtime is simple – crayons and coloring books. He said they really do want clean undershirts and underwear for Christmas. Perhaps some candy, but nothing that can melt too much in shipping. The Haitian customs will sometimes hold containers for two months or so before allowing them to clear and be delivered. Strong and clean shoebox-sized containers may be filled with small toys, games, coloring books, summer clothes, non-perishable food, prayer cards, rosaries and family photos. No rice and beans, guns, war games, soaps or used items. Wrap the box in holiday paper, and label it with a gender and age (your choice). Suggested age range is: infant, 2-4 years, 5-9 and 10-14. An $8 donation is requested per box to help defray shipping expenses to Haiti. Place it in a separate envelope marked “shipping” – do not tape it on the boxes. Envelopes will be collected at the Church Garage. Unmarked checks will be used for shipping. Checks should be made payable to ST. MARY’S CHURCH only, not to any organization or individual. Contributions toward this Christmas project, if received by October 24, may be sent to Josie Uhlinger, 7 E. Grove St., Ballston Spa, N.Y., 12020, or call her at 518-885-9620. Money will also be used to purchase rice and beans for shipping to the island. “These are beautiful, intelligent kids that I want to educate and make men and women out of them,” said Father Belanich. “They would have been dead if we didn’t take them. The poverty is stunning. I wish more of the world really knew.” For more information on the Cardinal Stepinac Children Center, call 201-745-1145 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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