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Arlington doctors, church pitch in for Haitian hurricane victims

The Arlington community has a chance to help out residents of Haiti who have been devastated by recent hurricanes and flooding.

As local physicians Jerry Rusher and Gary Stanley have worked at a hospital in Northern Haiti, the Arlington Free Methodist Church has started a "Pennies From Heaven" fund drive for Haitians.

Jeanne Wessel, missions mobilizer for the Arlington Free Methodist Church, is asking area residents to bring in jars of spare change, or other funds, either to the Arlington Free Methodist Church itself, at 730 E Highland Dr., or to the Skagit State Bank, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to Wessel, donations are tax-deductible, receipts are available and all funds raised will be sent to Haiti and distributed to affected areas through the Free Methodist World Missions Bishops Famine and Relief Fund, to provide much-needed food, clean water and medical care.

While the Arlington Free Methodist Church are hoping to make those pennies rain down, doctors Rusher and Stanley left for Haiti Sept. 12, five days after Hurricane Ike hit. While Stanley returned Oct. 3, Rusher is remaining through the end of the month.

Rusher sent an e-mail to Wessel from Haiti, describing the hospital and clinics there as busy and mostly full.

"There are quite a lot of ugly wounds," Rusher wrote. "The first day of work, we were at the hospital from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. We are seeing a lot of patients who are in sad situations and are needing food, water and shelter more than medical care. The Peavy orphanage is feeding a lot of people. Several hundred are still sleeping in the state school in Dessalines."

One of the projects Rusher has funded, through donations from the Arlington Free Methodist Church, helps patients who have no one to feed them.

"The hospital chaplain shared this need to me with a heavy heart, and I was happy to be able to help him," Rusher said. "It is hard for patients to get better if they don't have anything to eat. Jackson, whose leg I had to amputate last year, is planning on riding a mule 20 miles through the mountains to see us next week. The road through Gonaives is just too hard to get through."

Members of the Arlington, Warm Beach and Snohomish communities have joined yearly building teams that have gone to Haiti since the 1990s, to build schools and churches in the capital city of Port au Prince. An existing hospital was rebuilt in 1985 in the northern city of Dessalines, where Rusher and Stanley have been providing health and spiritual care for Haitians. Stanley, who has worked at the Arlington Wound Care Clinic, reported he had never seen the severity of the wounds that he saw at the Dessalines Hospital in Haiti.

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