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Notre Dame effort helps ‘poorest of poor’

Jenn Metz | Friday, December 5, 2008

Two United States Air Force C-130s took off from Youngstown, Ohio, today, headed for the Dominican Republic.

Their cargo: 50,000 pounds of clothing, in part collected by students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University, to help the ‘poorest of the poor’ in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The Notre Dame effort, coordinated as part of a project called “Poorest of the Poor: A Call to Solidarity – Round Table Discussions and A Clothing Drive for Haiti,” contributed 300 boxes of clothing, totaling 2,000 pounds, senior Greg Podolej, a member of the Haiti Working Group, said.

The drive began Sept. 30 and lasted until Nov. 9, when student volunteers helped sort and load the clothing onto a truck headed for Youngstown, home of Dr. Paul Wright, a 1972 Notre Dame graduate who began collecting clothes for those in impoverished countries after meeting Mother Teresa.

Erin Wash, a member of the Class of 2009 Council, discussed the idea of a drive bringing together the joint efforts of students and alumni at a conference last April, as reported in an Oct. 28 Observer article about the clothing drive.

In addition to the clothing drive, the project featured lectures and the showings of two documentary films to help raise awareness of the situation in Haiti.

Podolej said collection boxes were placed in various locations around campus – including dormitories, dining halls and academic buildings.

Students at Notre Dame, he said, “made a tangible contribution” to the clothing drive, and alumni returning to campus during the football season also made an impact.

Collection boxes were also placed in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, which offered a 20 percent-off coupon to those who made donations, Podolej said.

When the boxes arrived in Youngstown, they were added to the 48,000 pounds of clothing Wright had previously collected.

The Observer was given a copy of a letter Wright wrote to the Air Force, expressing his gratitude for its help in the delivery of the clothing.

“The Air Force was instrumental in helping take [the clothing] down,” Podolej said.

The letter said one of the planes, manned with four pilots is destined for Santo Domingo, while the other, with three pilots, will land in Santiago, both in the Dominican Republic. At the two airports, representatives from the 64 Rotary Clubs in the Dominican Republic will unload the cargo and place the boxes of clothing on trucks to be taken to distribution locations, like churches and mission centers that serve the poor.

About one-third of the donations will help those in need in the Dominican Republic and the rest will be sent to Haiti.

Wright himself will travel to Santo Domingo Dec. 7, and remain in the Dominican Republic to develop a medical clinic to serve the poor.

Podolej, one of the many students from the Haiti Working Group and Student Government who worked together on the project, expressed his gratitude to all of the members of the Notre Dame community who made a contribution to the drive: “We all want thank the students, faculty, staff and alumni who helped donate,” he said.