Wednesday, March 12, 2014
PORTLAND — The toddler in orange plaid gently played with his new uncle's baseball cap, grabbing the brim and pulling it off his head.
The little girl -- decked out in a deep purple outfit, pink sandals and headband and hair in many tiny braids -- shyly played with her mother's long hair as she eyed the strangers who were now family.
The scene Wednesday at the Portland International Jetport was quiet, almost tentative.
But the huge smiles spoke volumes.
Amanda and Jediah Logiodice had just introduced their newly adopted children to their family. Over the weekend they had traveled to Miami, where they met up with and collected Christella, 5, and David, 1, two orphans from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Pittsfield couple has renamed David after his new father, Jediah.
''It's bittersweet. There's a lot of destruction that happened to the people of Haiti,'' said Jediah Logiodice. ''But it's good to see a silver lining in the clouds -- we're very happy.''
The couple has three biological children, Donavan, 8, Braeden, 5, and Bella, 4, and had been working for more than a year to adopt first Christella, then little Jediah.
The Logiodices weren't the only Maine couple returning home with adopted children from Haiti.
Matt and Carlyn Lenfestey of Winthrop came into the jetport about a half hour after the Pittsfield family, bearing 20-month-old Sassia, 2-year-old Richard and 3-year-old Reggie, a Haitian orphan whom they had adopted in June of last year.
Like the Logiodices, the Lenfesteys had been working to adopt their children before the recent earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince. The disaster hastened the adoption process, as parents and orphanages acted to evacuate children who were already moving through the system.
The two families hadn't met before, but stood and talked, sharing experiences and stories, tired children held as family members and the media watched.
The Logiodices' two new children were from His Home for Children, a Port-au-Prince orphanage. Within days of the building's destruction, young Christella and Jediah were in tents brought in to shelter the orphans, Amanda Logiodice said. Trucks with water-filtering capabilities were soon on-site. Many of the kids just thought they were camping out, she said.
The couple had gone to southern Florida on Sunday, when they received word from their adoption coordinator that an attempt would be made to airlift the children out of Haiti. Local government officials were allowing orphans to leave the country, but then imposed a deadline for doing so. The orphanage took the children to the airfield, and 68 orphans with new parents waiting in America were flown out ahead of the deadline.
Over the past few days, the Logiodices got only a few hours of sleep as they worked to get their kids into the country and then waited for them to arrive.
''I'd like to think we can go home and sleep,'' said Jediah Logiodice, ''but we have five children now.''
Friends and family are holding an open house and baby shower for the new Logiodice children, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Sebasticook Valley Elks Lodge.
The Logiodices and community members collected more than 500 pounds of items for the orphanage, such as diapers, baby wipes, canned tuna, medical supplies and baby formula. They added their items to about 4,500 more pounds of supplies for the orphanage gathered by other groups. Delta Airlines flew everything to Haiti last week, said Liana Walker, a friend of the Logiodices who lives in Troy.
''It was just a community effort on everyone's part to get stuff down there,'' she said.
The Lenfesteys' story is a bit different, but speaks to the traumatic impact the earthquake has had across the entire island nation.
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