LAWRENCE — Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
And in Lawrence, home to thousands of immigrants from both countries, citizens are sharing in the pain of those victimized by Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake that was centered just outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
They are also sharing ways they can come together to help their relatives and friends back home.
"Haiti needs our help. I've always said Lawrence is a small city, but it has a big heart," said Isabel Melendez at a meeting of community leaders last night at Casa Dominicana to draw up a plan for how the city can help in the relief efforts in Haiti.
Among those at the meeting were Melendez; Ernesto Bautista, who is leading the effort; Orlando Vargas of Haverhill, president and founder of Dominican Organization of International Resources; Mayor William Lantigua, and Angel Corado and Delmi Rosales, both of El Salvador.
Rosales said her native country suffered severe flooding in November and her group was able to raise more than $6,000 from area residents.
"I feel committed because working together is the only way we can overcome the disasters our countries face," Rosales said.
Vargas said he already has two trucks filled with mattresses and other supplies ready to ship to Haiti.
Lantigua, who is also a state representative, said he was in touch with two fellow lawmakers of Haitian descent — Marie St. Fleur and Linda Dorcena Forry, who in turn have been talking with President Obama.
"Haiti abuts our own motherland," said Lantigua, who is of Dominican descent. "It's our brother's house and it touches me personally."
Lantigua said he will speak with the presidents of Holy Family Hospital and Lawrence General Hospital to see how they can help in getting medicine and other supplies. He also said he will send a memo to all city and school department employees urging them to donate food, nonperishable food and medicine to Haiti.
To make it easier for them, there will be an area in City Hall to drop off donations.
The mayor also announced there will be a vigil Friday at noon at City Hall, 200 Common St., to remember the deceased and to pray for the injured.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley also asked for prayers and support for the people of Haiti.
"The human tragedy unfolding in Haiti is heartbreaking and it calls all of us to action to help the people impacted by the earthquake," O'Malley said in a statement.
"We pray for those who have perished, for the injured, for the displaced and for relief personnel who are courageously working to assist the people of Haiti at this difficult and sad time. We ask God to bless Haiti and to be merciful in their hour of need."
Arnelle Morales, who moved from Haiti in 1970 was also at the meeting along with Jude Charles and the Rev. Jean Joseph, pastor of the Haitian Church of God in Lawrence.
"We want to say thank you for coming together as one people of God to help us," Morales said. "We really appreciate it."
After the meeting, Joseph lead a prayer meeting with 20 congregants. He gave them a synopsis of what happened at Casa Dominicana before leading them in prayer.
Sobs could be heard as men and women waved their hands in prayers and sang hymns in Creole. Others cried, as Joseph ended the prayer meeting with the Our Father.
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