Local ties to Haiti are many and strong
By Donna Vickroy Sun-Times Media February 23, 2012 8:52PM
Antoine Jean (left) translates a letter from Ruby Grzesiak to John Rodney Pierre (center) as John Shattuck looks on at St. Helene’s. Grzesiak’s father, Ray, sponsors the boy. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Burial pall and clothing workshops are scheduled for Zion Lutheran Church in Tinley Park on March 15, at St. Dennis Church in Lockport on March 21 and at St. Damian School in Oak Forest on April 13. For a complete schedule, contact Elizabeth Wisnasky at 708-717-9818. The group needs fabric, elastic and Velcro, which can be dropped off at St. Elizabeth Seton Church, 9300 W. 167th St., Orland Hills.
Mona Purdy, founder and CEO of Share Your Soles, will be heading to remote regions of Haiti March 1 with 5,000 to 6,000 pairs of shoes.
For more information
on that program, visit
Sue and Ken Gross, on behalf of Christ Lutheran Church in Orland Park, are hoping to send college students to Jeremie and Lakie, Haiti, to teach English this summer. For more information on
their efforts, visit www.christlutheranchurch.org.
And little Calei Clark, of Lockport, continues to collect shoes to be shipped to Haiti. Her mom, Jeni Clark, says new and used shoes can be dropped off at Lemont Montessori School, 16427 W. 135th St., Lemont, 815-834-0607; Marchio Tile & Carpet, 910 S. State St., Lockport, 815-838-6050 and QRS Inc., 900 S. State St., Lockport, 815-328-1099. For more information, email Jeni Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Updated: March 25, 2012 8:21AM
We no sooner went looking for 7-year-old John Rodney Pierre on the grounds of St. Helene orphanage than we found him rounding a corner, walking with friends.
He was sporting a red sweat shirt, blue jeans and light blue Crocs, and once John Shattuck told him the news that he had new sponsors in New Lenox, Ray and Kate Grzesiak, a big smile as well.
Grzesiak, who owns several Charter Fitness gyms in the Chicago area, had visited Haiti with Shattuck a year ago. He was so moved by the experience that he decided to become a “godparent” to one of the orphans.
Shattuck, a Frankfort businessman, got to deliver the news, along with a packet of letters and good wishes from Grzesiak’s four biological children, Jillian, Ruby, Leo and Phebe.
A few days before we left for Port-au-Prince, we got a call from Elizabeth Haulcy of University Park. She, too, sponsors an orphan at St. Helene in Kenscoff.
“Would it be possible for you to deliver a toy to her while you’re there?” she asked. She also sent us with a card for her sponsored child and a bag of suckers for her friends.
When we found 9-year-old Michelda Archelus and gave her the doll, she answered with a shy, “Merci.” She hugged the doll and then handed it to a group of girls, each of them taking a turn at embracing it.
The ties connecting Haiti to Chicago’s south and southwest suburbs are not only many, they are strong.
Student artwork from Centennial School in Orland Park hangs in the Rev. Rick Frechette’s office at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Tabarre. John Shattuck’s wife, Toni, is a special-needs teaching assistant at the school and sends her husband to the island with handfuls of child-made well wishes.
When teachers at Millennium School in Tinley Park learned we were visiting orphans, they had students make Valentines.
Upon learning of our impending trip, teachers in Oak Lawn High School District quickly assigned students to write letters and stories in French, the official language Haitians learn in school. Many of the Eisenhower, Richards and Shepard students and staff also filled boxes with school supplies, T-shirts, toys and coloring books, which we delivered to the orphans at St. Helene and to the children who reside in the Angels of Light program. Both programs are run by Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, a nonprofit organization that tends to the needs of orphans and abandoned children in nine impoverished countries.
Each distribution was like Christmas morning. Children patiently waited for a toy, shirt, card or letter. We were worried we wouldn’t have enough, but the teachers who took charge of disseminating the materials weren’t concerned at all.
“All of our children share,” assured instructor after instructor. No truer words were spoken.
Soccer balls and toy cars were handed to particular children, who played with the items for a few minutes and then handed them to someone else for a turn.
It was amazing to see so much joy.
And that is what keeps Shattuck coming back time after time.
He’s now gearing up to fill and ship his 23rd cargo container. This time, he’s sending mostly medical supplies but is also looking for contributions of tools and musical instruments. To make a donation or for more information, call 815-793-5935.
To donate directly to NPH, visit nph.org.