Sussex County grants $5,000 for Haiti relief

Sussex County is extending a helping hand to those affected by the earthquake in Haiti.

The county council, at its Tuesday, Jan. 26, meeting, approved a $5,000 grant for disaster relief efforts in the earthquake-stricken nation, where thousands have died, many remain missing, and others struggle to recover.

“This is such an overwhelming disaster that we all have to do what we can, give what we can, whether it’s a little or a lot,” County Council Vice President Michael H. Vincent, who presided over Tuesday’s meeting, said. “Even though times are very tight for all of us today, we must rise to the occasion and support those who need our help now more than ever.”

The earthquake hit the Caribbean island nation Jan. 12, registering 7.0 on the Richter scale. Government officials and humanitarian organizations have said they believe as many as 200,000 died in the quake, which devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

Lending aid to communities and nations suffering major disasters is nothing new for Sussex County. The council has given grants to previous recovery efforts, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Indonesian tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The county will direct the funds to relief organizations to provide victims with basic supplies, including water, food and medicine, as well as tents, blankets and other necessities.

The council vote on the grant was 3-1 in favor, with Councilman Sam Wilson opposed.

“I have second thoughts on this money going to Haiti,” Wilson explained on Tuesday, noting that his church had collected for Haiti relief already and emphasizing that such donations were all voluntary, “and people give.”

“I feel like I have already contributed a lot of money toward Haiti, including with my taxes,” Wilson continued. “I read where millions upon millions of dollars have already been sent to Haiti, and I don’t know if people feel we should be sending their tax dollars … to another country.”

Councilman George Cole said he, along with Vincent and Councilwoman Joan Deaver, supported the grants, giving county staff the discretion to determine from which accounts to pull the funds and which relief groups would receive it.

The request for grant funding received by the county came via the American Red Cross but the council acknowledged on Tuesday that other groups might also be deserving of some of the aid money.

“Historically, we have tried to support major disasters throughout the world,” Cole noted. “It’s going to take lots of money to deal with this issue in Haiti.”

“Where is the stopping point?” Wilson asked rhetorically.