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Church answers call for help in Haiti

South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church in Ballantyne is sending disaster relief trailers to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to offer support to those suffering from the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.

"We think we have problems, but they are nothing compared to the problems of the people in Haiti," said Charlie Metzler, one of seven leaders of the church's community outreach committee.

The two trailers are part of a larger fleet owned by Presbytery of Charlotte's Disaster Relief Team. The trailers have been in New Orleans for the past three years, where they helped an estimated 60,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The 28-foot-long trailers were used as bathroom and laundry facilities in Louisiana. Each trailer has eight restrooms, four for men and four for women. Metzler said that although bathrooms don't sound like much, they were greatly needed.

"Conditions were unsanitary and the trailers really helped clean up the area," said Metzler.

When the trailers go to Haiti, the washers and dryers will be removed and medical supplies will be added. The trailers are also equipped with heaters, which will be removed and replaced with fans. Before they are sent to Haiti, the trailers will be filled with as much clothing and food as possible.

The trailers arrived at the church in January to be refurbished. Volunteers with the community outreach committee will work every weekend for three months to complete the renovations.

Metzler is leading the renovation project. He is the head of the construction subcommittee and has been renovating disaster-relief trailers for two years. He usually takes his team to work on the trailers at Gilwood Presbyterian Church in Concord, where trailers usually are repaired and stored. This is the first time trailers have been on the South Mecklenburg Presbyterian campus.

The outreach committee "had mentioned to Presbytery of Charlotte that we were interested in working with trailers," said Metzler. "Then the trailers got back from Louisiana. Presbytery of Charlotte asked us if we wanted them," said Metzler. "I thought it would be a great thing for our church to have them here, instead of traveling an hour away (to Concord) like we usually do."

There are several repairs that must be done before sending the trailers to Haiti. Along with some cosmetic work, the plumbing will be updated and they will be thoroughly cleaned.

While South Mecklenburg Presbyterian is providing the labor to fix the trailers, Presbytery of Charlotte will pay for the renovation supplies and for the trailers to be transported to Haiti. Metzler said the total cost will be approximately $5,500.

"It's part of who we are, as a church and as a people, to reach out and help those beyond ourselves," said Metzler. "They've had so many troubles with the earthquake, crime, corruption, disease. It's just been one thing after another.

"We know it's a small thing, but it's a step in the right direction."

This is not the first time the church has done work in Haiti. In 2010, it sent a school bus filled with donated clothing, food, medical supplies and computers to Port-au-Prince.

One of the church's charter members, Actionnel Fleurisma, is Haitian and has since returned to Bayonnais, Haiti, to open a school and church. South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church has been sending mission teams for 15 years to Haiti to aid Fleurisma with construction and humanitarian projects.

South Mecklenburg Presbyterian also has a Haitian student sponsorship program in which church members can donate $35 a month to help pay teachers' salaries, buy school supplies and give students a nourishing meal each day at Fleurisma's school.

"It's a good thing to see what other things are going on in the world, to get out of your bubble," said Metzler. "We just want to help."

While Metzler doesn't have a background in construction, he enjoys working with his hands to help others. Metzler is the president of Integrated Global Services, a local distributing company.

Work on the trailers will begin in February and will take approximately three months.

Once the renovations are finished, the trailers will be sent by ocean freight to Haiti and stay there as part of a donation on behalf of Presbytery of Charlotte.