Next Dor’s Haiti fundraiser

Like so many of you, I have been riveted to the TV this past week watching the earthquake devastation in Haiti. The images are wrenching, with bodies continuing to pile up, but what I can’t get out of my head is the sheer number of people at any time of the day walking the streets expressionless, with nothing but the clothes on their back. Shell-shocked, grief-stricken, terrified, in total despair — perhaps one CNN reporter put it best when he said this is worse than any horror movie imaginable.

Then I look away and get back to my life. On Friday, as I was checking out at Costco, the cashier asked if I would like to contribute to the American Red Cross effort in Haiti. She would add whatever amount I wanted to my bill and 100 percent would go to the relief effort. It was that simple.

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I asked if a lot of customers were giving. She said just about everyone.

I found the same to be true at Dierbergs, which also will add whatever amount a customer chooses to donate to his or her grocery bill.

It strikes me that both the United States government and citizenry are responding to this devastation in rapid-fire form contrasted with what happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Whatever the reason, it’s heartening to see such an overwhelming sense of urgency from so many corners.

Locally, the number of outlets for support, both within the Jewish community and elsewhere, continues to grow. Several St. Louis area synagogue websites are linking to relief organizations, so congregants can make a contribution with just one click. In her column this week, Lois Caplan highlights a benefit concert at Central Reform Congregation, which will take place this Saturday night and feature a slew of member talent, with a suggested minimum donation of $10. Not only can people give at this event, it also allows entire families to come together and use the concert as a “teaching moment,” helping children to understand that the needs of others sometimes come first.

If anyone ever questioned the power or reach of social networking, last Saturday night, Jan. 16, would have convinced he or she otherwise. That’s when “Hops for Haiti” was held at Next Dor, the Central West End house dedicated to creating community for Jewish young adults, and raised $620 for Haiti earthquake relief.

Organized by Roland Roth and Yoni Sarason, “Hops for Haiti” was conceived the day before as the two young community leaders sat drinking hot chocolate at a bistro in the Central West End. Both wanted to do something for those struggling in Haiti but didn’t know what. Roth’s father was born and raised in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and knew that many family and friends were either missing or presumed dead.

When Sarason suggested an event at Next Dor to raise money and awareness, “Hops for Haiti” was born. Within 30 hours Schlafly Brewing Company had given two kegs at employee pricing, donations by Miller and Magic Hat Brewing Companies came in, cups and Sharpies had been purchased, a Facebook event page had been started, and the text message/email/cell phone/twitter machine had been activated.

Neither expected to raise over $620 in one night, much less with a day’s notice, but that’s exactly what happened, with more than 60 people attending.

The Post-Dispatch website, stltoday.com, lists several local fundraising efforts for assistance in Haiti, from the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra donating 5 percent of all single-ticket revenue from this weekend’s concerts to area restaurants pledging part of their proceeds on certain days to the nonprofit organization Hands Together, another relief organization. Restaurants or other businesses that would like to participate in the fundraising can call Brian Corbett at 314-614-2137.

Actor George Clooney, who was practically deemed an honorary St. Louisan when he spent a couple of months here last year filming “Up in the Air,” is spearheading a star-studded telethon on Friday, Jan. 22 to raise money for Haitian relief. The two-hour event will air on all of the worldwide MTV channels, along with ABC, NBC, HBO, and CNN beginning at 7 p.m St. Louis time.

Talk of more celebrity fundraisers are popping up all over the Internet, though one closer to home, “St. Louis Musicians for Haiti,” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9th at the Sheldon Concert Hall. Performing are Christine Brewer and Peter Henderson, Brian Owens, Mayor Taylor, the Bottoms Up Blues Band, Peter Martin, Mardra Thomas and Reggie Thomas, and Kim Massie. The cost is $15, and tickets can be purchased at all MetroTix outlets, metrotix.com or by calling 314-534-1111, and at the Fox Theatre box office. Proceeds from the presentation benefit Doctors Without Borders.

If you know of other local relief efforts to help the people of Haiti, please email the Jewish Light at [email protected] and we’ll be sure to get them on our website as soon as possible.