EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 14, 2010

Immigrants from all over come together in Lawrence to help

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.

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