Human impact of earthquake in Haiti felt in Milwaukee

    The Milwaukee business community is encouraged to help support the relief effort in Haiti, and the recovery of the mission house for Milwaukee’s Church of Gesu’s Haitian twin parish St. Jude’s.

    Haiti was devastated Tuesday by the strongest earthquake to hit the country in more than 200 years. Thousands of people are believed to have died, and millions more are in danger in the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.

    The full extent of the damage caused by the earthquake is still unknown.

    St Jude’s is located in Mount Opital, a mountainous region approximately one hour from Port au Prince in Haiti.

    “We are still trying to receive word about our parish,” said Eileen Ciezki a spokeswoman from the Gesu Church. “We found out this morning that our mission house was completely destroyed, and three workers, including the mission’s acting director Jillian Thorpe, were pulled from the rubble safely. We don’t know yet about the others.”

    According to Ciezki, there may have been as many as 10 people in the mission house at the time of the quake. The mission house is part of Connecticut’s Diocese of Norwich Haitian Ministries. It serves as the transportation point where Gesu missions meet before going to the parish, it also assists them with translating, Ciezki said. It is located about 45 minutes away from the parish at the bottom of the mountain.

    A mission team from St. Mary Catholic Faith Community in Hales Corners was scheduled to leave for Haiti at 5:40 this morning, Ciezki said, The Gesu church did not have another mission scheduled until May.

    The church is still waiting on news about St. Jude’s pastor, who periodically comes down from the mountain to assist the Diocese of Haiti. “We have no idea where he was when it happened,” Ciezki said.
    The church is accepting donations to help in the recovery of at least the mission house and will await further information on its parish.

    Ron and Ronnie Pruhs, natives of Wauwatosa, were involved in the process of forming the twin parish in Haiti from the beginning. The Pruhs were recipients of a BizTimes Milwaukee Health Care Hero Award in 2007 for their work as volunteer dentists in Haiti.

    Since 1994, the Pruhs have made trips to the St. Damien orphanage in rural Haiti, where they provide free oral hygiene to children. The couple had set up a hospital in the area to serve the needs of Haitian children. Ron and his children were scheduled to leave this Saturday to return to Haiti.

    “It’s a very hard time,” said Ronnie Pruhs, “My husband and children were going to go down on Saturday, We just heard that one of our buildings for our organization collapsed.”
    Ronnie was still waiting on word about the organization’s workers. She confirmed that at least one worker was severely hurt in the quake.

    According to Shannon Hext, public support coordinator at Red Cross of Southeastern Wisconsin, The American Red Cross has promised $1 million in funds for relief effort, and the agency has released supplies from a warehouse in Panama.

    People who want to donate to help the victims in Haiti can send donations marked “Haiti Relief” to the Church of Gesu in Milwaukee. They also can donate to the Red Cross online here or donate $10 to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999."


    Alysha Schertz is a reporter at BizTimes Milwaukee. Reporter Liz Ramus contributed to this report.

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