CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nothing runs through North Carolinians veins like NASCAR and basketball – except maybe compassion and generosity. This weekend, groups all over Charlotte raised money for earthquake victims in Haiti, each in their own way.
Saturday night at the Charlotte Bobcats game, “NASCAR Night” meant a sellout crowd. With every seat filled, NASCAR and the Bobcats thought it would be a great opportunity to raise money for Haiti.
“All the stories on television -- it’s heartbreaking,” remarked Fred Whitfield, President and COO of the Bobcats. “Everyone wants to know, what can I personally do?”
In South Charlotte, a smaller crowd is just as enthusiastic about what they’re doing to help. Volunteers from 25 Charlotte-area churches are packing a bus full of food, water and medical supplies. All of it – even the bus – will ship out to Haiti next week. It leaves Sunday morning for Florida, where it will be loaded on a ship going to the devastated island.
Volunteer Terry Gaines sat on the floor Saturday at one donation site, surrounded by supplies. “It's just incredible,” said Gaines. “We thought we would be here for an hour because we knew what we had already, but the stuff keeps coming.”
From the hard court at Time Warner Arena, to the center court at SouthPark Mall, the giving continued. NewsChannel 36, along with radio partners V101.9 and Power 98, joined Haitian-Americans at the mall to raise money for food, water, medical supplies, and humanitarian trips for survivors of the quake.
The Salvation Army collected nearly $2,000 in donations during the event.
Flore Petty told the crowd she just heard from her sister in Haiti Saturday for the first time since the earthquake struck.
“She is hurt,” said Petty. “She is not dead, but she is homeless.”
Other members of Petty’s extended family were not so lucky. Her uncle is the only survivor in his family. His wife and all of his children – Petty’s cousins – died.
“Makes me want to go assist my family, but also Haiti in general,” said Petty.
Eddy Leger is a Charlotte-based missionary who was at a school in Haiti during the quake. He felt the two-story building shake and heard children screaming. A colleague’s trip into Port-au-Prince to look for three of the mission’s college students had disappointing results.
“When they got there, three of them were missing,” said Leger. “One came back, and two others are still missing.” Leger said it took 14 hours for his group to catch a plane home, which they did by taking a bus along the coast to the Dominican Republic – a long, slow trip on torn-up roads.
Stories like these prompted shoppers to give. By the end of the two-hour rally, the Salvation Army’s red kettle was filled to the brim. The kettles, by Salvation Army rules, are only used at Christmas. Local offices got special permission to bring them out for the Haiti relief rally.
“The mall has been packed today,” said Maj. Todd Hawks. “People have been coming up to the kettle making cash contributions, asking how can I write a check?”
Shoppers like Reggie Cyrille, who grew up in Haiti, stopped by to make donations.
“I am from the Haitian background,” said Cyrille, “and I was really struck by what happened in Haiti, and I wanted to be part of the community and see what I can do to help.”
Others who want to donate have many ways to do so – online with PayPal, by texting the word “Haiti” to 52000 (which charges ten dollars to your cell phone bill), or by calling the Salvation Army at 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769). Every penny donated to the Salvation Army’s Haiti relief fund will go directly to food, water, medicine, and humanitarian help in Haiti.