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Students, Faculty and Staff Come Together for Haiti

Nearly eight months ago, the strongest earthquake in the Caribbean, since 1770, hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After the initial shock on Jan. 12 and the subsequent 33 aftershocks, three million people were in need of emergency aid, 1.5 million were left homeless and more than 200,000 were reported dead. Over 280,000 residences and commercial buildings either collapsed or were severely damaged.

Since then, students, faculty and staff at Millersville University have donated time, money and supplies to the Haiti relief effort. Items collected filled 220 boxes and included adult and children’s clothing, household items, hygiene items, non-perishables, school supplies, outdoor items and 1,000 gallons of water. So far, 3,800 pounds of donated materials have been sent to Port- au-Prince. All materials have gone to a medical supply distribution center and will be delivered to hospitals and clinics as they are needed.  There is still one 20-foot shipping container at Millersville remaining to be shipped.

Dr. James Cosentino, biology, coordinated Millersville University’s Haiti Relief Project with faculty and staff, which focused on an organized system of relief efforts. He worked with Lancaster Regional Hospital and their clinics to gather medical supplies and had pallets of supplies ranging from antibiotics to children’s crutches. The University’s Health Services also aided the project by donating excess medical supplies and equipment along with bed linens, pillows and clothing that came mostly from nurse contributions.

James Pannafino, assistant professor of art, extended aid into the classroom by having his students design posters that reflected Haitian culture, allowing them to take a deeper look into how the Haitian population has been affected by the disaster. The posters were then hung during a rally held on campus last semester.

Haitian native and international studies major Mackenzi Vernat initiated Hearts for Haiti, a project focused on gathering support in the form of nonperishable food items, baby supplies, money, clothing, first aid materials and other items that would be helpful to victims of the earthquake. Vernat, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Iota Sigma chapter, and financial secretary of African Student Association at Millersville, raised more than $2,600 for the American Red Cross, through student collections and fraternity fundraising events.

Howard Jones, community service coordinator for the Civic & Community Engagement & Research Project, was inspired by Vernat to conduct a forum where students and community members could address the personal effects of the earthquake.  Vernat’s motivation for Jones led him to coordinate a campus-wide rally for Haiti. Held on Feb. 16, the rally allowed individuals to express concerns, issues and emotional impacts of the earthquake.

“We cannot thank the students, faculty and campus community enough for their enduring efforts to donate and allow us to make a difference,” said Jones. “There is more to be done but we are grateful for where we are today.”

Donations are no longer being accepted.  For more information, contact volunteer central at 717-872-3774 or at

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