March 3, 2010

Quake hastens Maine families' growth spurt

MATT WICKENHEISER

— By

Staff Writer

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.

They had been working to adopt their children from an orphanage in the Cap Haitien area of northern Haiti, almost 90 miles away from Port-au-Prince. That's where they had adopted Reggie from last year. And that was when they met Sassia and Richard.

Cap Haitien felt the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, but suffered no damage. But even that far away, there is suffering. Food and gas prices have jumped, and the city's hospitals are serving many quake victims from Port-au-Prince.

Even the orphanages are stressed. Any child who was in the adoption process was united with his or her new parents as quickly as possible to make room for new orphans from Port-au-Prince, said Matt Lenfestey.

Just this week, the orphanage where their new children had been living received 20 new orphans from the Haitian capital, he said. The two children were flown to Florida, where they were met by their new parents and brother.

As Carlyn Lenfestey stood holding her two new children, little Richard clutched a bright plastic payloader toy, and his sister a baby doll. Their mother considered that in only eight months, she and her husband have become a family of five.

''It's heavy -- it's wonderful,'' she said. ''It's great.''

As the two families talked, Sassia began crying -- signaling to parents, family and media that it was time to get some tired kids to their new Maine homes.

 

MaineToday Media Staff Writer Erin Rhoda contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

mwickenheiser@pressherald.com

 

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