The Miami Herald
Wed, Sep. 22, 2004

Miami-Dade leaders call for contributions

As the storm toll mounted in the Caribbean, Miami-Dade leaders hoped to lead by example with financial help.


Jacotte Previlus had parked herself next to her TV, radio and telephone since Saturday, when relatives in the Haitian city of Gonaives told her floodwaters were creeping under their doorstep.

A torrential downpour fed by Tropical Storm Jeanne followed, the phone lines fell and all communication was lost.

''It's very stressful and painful,'' Previlus said Tuesday, still not knowing about the well-being of her family and friends in Haiti. ''You're by the radio, you're by the phone, and everybody lives by the TV.''

Today, the Miramar resident, her mother and aunt leave for Port-au-Prince, and then take a bus as far as flooded roads will allow, to Gonaives, the northern port city devastated by Jeanne.

As the death toll neared 700 on Tuesday, Miami-Dade County and Haitian leaders appealed to residents to contribute to relief efforts not only for Haiti but its suffering Caribbean neighbors.

The county led the way with more than $90,000 from commissioners' office budgets.

Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler donated $10,000, and most of the commissioners were ready to donate funds from their budgets, including $10,000 each from commissioners Katy Sorenson, Dennis Moss, Sally Heyman, Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz, Dorrin Rolle, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Soto.

Libraries and fire stations will collect battery-operated radios, batteries, canned food, diapers, dry milk, candles, blankets, first-aid supplies, flashlights, water and matches. Commissioner Joe Martinez -- who helped organize a flotilla of private boats to deliver donated goods to the Bahamas last week -- said several companies, including Discovery Cruise Lines, agreed to donate cargo space to deliver aid.

Other plans include a telethon on Haitian radio and television stations, said Gepsie Metellus of the Haitian Neighborhood Center.

Tuesday night, Haitian community leaders organized a meeting of Gonaives residents and their supporters at St. Paul church in Little Haiti.

''What happened in Haiti is huge,'' businessman Francois Joachin told an audience of about three dozen. ''I can't do it alone; you can't do it alone.''

Joachin has six sisters and seven brothers in downtown Gonaives -- and no word from any of them.