Glenwood children helping children |

Glenwood children helping children

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentFourth-grade student Elena Thomas, center, raised funds to help an orphanage in Haiti. Samantha Simpson, top, visited Elena's classroom at St. Stephen's School on Wednesday, accepting the donations on behalf of Mercy and Sharing.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Eight-year-old Elena Thomas has a giving nature.

When she saw the devastating images in the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake that demolished much of the area surrounding Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in January, she wanted to help.

“I was watching the news and thought it would be selfish for us to sit around while all of them suffer,” Elena said.

So, Elena, with the help of her classmates in Kelly Hillbrand’s fourth-grade class at St. Stephen’s School in Glenwood Springs, didn’t sit around. Elena wrote a letter to Aspen-based Mercy and Sharing, a nonprofit that operates schools and orphanages in Haiti, asking if the class could do something to help out.

Elena’s mother, Aleece Gallagher, said that they have known Mercy and Sharing’s founders Susie and Joe Krabacher for several years and that Elena was familiar with the organization and what it did.

Gallagher remembers watching the news with her daughter when she came up with the idea.

“I asked her what we were going to do about it,” Gallagher said. “And she said, ‘Let’s raise some money.'”

Elena spent a couple of days in rainy weather at the entrance to Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs with a collection box, and raised $244 in a single day.

On Wednesday, Elena presented Mercy and Sharing’s Samantha Simpson with more than $1,400 for the organization.

The money will help support schools, orphanages and nutritional programs in Haiti. And every little bit helps, according to Simpson, who thanked Elena and her classmates for their efforts.

“Thank you so much for what you started here and for what you’ve accomplished,” Simpson said. “That money makes a lot of difference.”

Mercy for Sharing has been working in Haiti for the past 15 years, where it runs two orphanages and employs more than 160 Haitians in its operations.

When the earthquake struck, several of the children went missing, according to Simpson, and three of the students from one school were killed. After the earthquake, the orphanages received 11 more children who had lost their parents in the disaster. In all, the two orphanages currently have about 113 children.

According to Simpson, most of the organization’s facilities were spared in the earthquake, with only a couple of structures in Port-au-Prince being affected.

And the organization remains strong.

“All of our programs are still functioning,” Simpson said.

According to news reports, the Haitian government estimated that 230,000 people have died from the earthquake, 300,000 were injured, and close to 1 million people are now homeless.

Simpson said that the amount of donations have dwindled in the months after the earthquake, but that efforts like Elena’s do a lot to help out.

“Every penny she raised goes directly for out projects in Haiti,” Simpson said.

The organization has received money from a handful of schools in Colorado, and more than 15 schools nationwide, Simpson said. It’s the efforts of children that really have an impact.

“Children helping children is quite an amazing thing to witness,” Simpson said.