March 3, 2010

Konbit Sante response aid hits $141,000

BETH QUIMBY

— By

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin /Staff Photographer;Thursday. 01/21/2010. Elizabeth Boynton from Portland is among volunteers answering phones as WGME sponsors a telethon to aid the victims of Haiti at Portland City Hall today.

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John Patriquin /Staff Photographer;Thursday. 01/21/2010. Erin Ovalle and Brian Bechard do a live shot as WGME sponsors a telethon to aid the victims of Haiti at Portland City Hall today.

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Konbit Sante Cap-Haitien Health Partnership has raised more than $141,000 to help earthquake response efforts in Haiti.

A daylong telethon at City Hall on Thursday, sponsored by the city and WGME-TV, raised $66,000 for the fund, city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg reported Thursday night.

Konbit Sante set up the fund with $25,000, and in just a few days it grew to $75,000 with donations from individuals and fundraising events.

With pledges Thursday from more than 850 individuals and businesses, the telethon ''From ME to Haiti'' pushed the response fund over $141,000, Clegg said.

The telethon was broadcast from Room 24, on the basement level of City Hall, where dozens of volunteers answered the phones from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

''People are responding,'' said Peter O'Donnell, a former city councilor who helped to organize the event.

Konbit Sante is a Portland-based medical support group that works to improve the public health system in Cap Haitien, which is Haiti's second-largest city and Portland's sister city in Haiti.

The telethon was the brainchild of O'Donnell and City Councilor Jill Duson, who managed to put it together last weekend, Clegg said.

City Hall employees, city councilors, Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr., Police Chief James Craig and others quickly signed up to work the phone lines.

''It is astonishing how it all pulled together so quickly,'' Clegg said.

Thursday morning, WGME reporter Erin Ovalle stood by, ready to go live, while several rows of volunteers took phone calls behind her, including Elizabeth Boynton of Portland, a retired city employee.

Boynton and the other volunteers had signed up for hour-long stints. Boynton said she would be happy to stay all day, if needed.

''I have done $350 so far,'' Boynton said of the pledges she had taken.

Duson, who has visited Cap Haitien, was among the morning's telethon volunteers, making phone calls looking for donors. She said she did not need to explain to people what Konbit Sante is.

''People know. They have made a personal connection,'' Duson said.

Dalinda Carpenter of Scarborough said she was helping because she works with Konbit Sante through the International Childhood Enrichment Program, a group she founded that builds playgrounds in Haiti and Afghanistan.

Her organization funded four playgrounds in Port-au-Prince -- which Carpenter said were probably destroyed in the earthquake -- and three in Cap Haitien.

A number of state politicians, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Gov. John Baldacci and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, called in to the telethon before the day was out.

Konbit Sante's executive director, Nate Nickerson, also called in, from Cap Haitien, to report on current conditions and relief plans under way in Haiti.

People can still support the fund by donating at the city manager's office at City Hall, online at www.healthyhaiti.org, or by mail with checks payable to Konbit Sante, P.O. Box 11281, Portland, ME 04104, noting Earthquake Response Fund in the memo field.

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

 

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