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Whitestone group raises money to repair Haitian church

Robert Gorman, from Medalia Art, looks through a few paintings. Photo by Maria Lopez
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Two years after an earthquake shook Haiti to its foundation, a group from Whitestone continues its efforts to repair the damaged buildings at the center of the island nation’s public life.

From Here to Haiti, a nonprofit dedicated to repairing the country’s non-government buildings, raised $3,500 during an art sale Saturday and is now halfway toward its goal of $25,000 to reconstruct the roof of St. John the Baptist Church in Anse d’Hainault.

The fund-raiser show featured the works of more than 30 Haitian and international artists, including those of its president, Patricia Brintle, at her home on Utopia Parkway.

“I was born in Haiti,” said Brintle, who made Whitestone her home 35 years ago. “My inspiration comes from Haiti and the mountains. Just being in that lush environment ... in Haiti the color just permeates the environment.”

This was the second art show fund-raiser the group has held since forming in 2010. During that time the group has repaired schools, outdoor toilets and church buildings at parishes throughout the country.

“Churches in Haiti fulfill a lot of the functions we, as Americans, consider the responsibility of government,” said Joseph Brintle, From Here to Haiti’s treasurer.

Most homes in Haiti do not have indoor plumbing, and church cisterns provide water used for cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene.

The church of St. John the Baptist survived hurricanes since 1954, and though it was the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that cracked the foundation, the building — like many throughout Haiti — has been deteriorating for years.

From Here to Haiti was originally set up in response to the earthquake, but after its previous successes members believe its scope has expanded.

“The earthquake was the precipitating event, but our work is not limited to the earthquake, “ Joseph Brintle said.

As an accountability measure, the group does not send any money to a third party in Haiti. It purchases materials directly from suppliers, and when they are on site volunteers travel to Haiti where they work with anywhere from 40 to 100 paid, local workers to complete the repairs, usually within a week.

“If you have enough people working, you can do anything fast,” Patricia Brintle said.

The group also holds a walkathon and dinner-dance fund-raiser; receives donations from the Brintles’ parish, St. Luke’s in Whitestone; and is coordinating fund-raising efforts with the Committee for the Advancement of Anse d’Hainault, a Queens organization comprised of people from the Haitian municipality living in the United States.

Patricia Brintle also made a print that designer Dayanne Danier will use to create scarves under her collection, Bien Abyé, which means “well-dressed” in French Creole — the proceeds from which will be donated to FHTH.

“Too often when people think of Haiti, they are reminded of images of poverty and a third world country. It’s important to think of the beautiful art of the culture, and when working with Patricia we both felt we wanted a more vibrant image,” Danier said.

Patricia Brintle said FHTH operates so efficiently that its work should be easily continued as long as there is a need.

“We’re hoping it will last when we no longer can do it,” she said. “There’s always going to be a need for help.”

For more information, visit fromheretohaiti.org or dayannedanier.com.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 12:00 am, January 21, 2012
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