It takes a village to raise a child, so the saying goes. A local group is hoping that once again, River Falls residents will come together to help support a school for children in Haiti through the 16th annual "It Takes a Village" concert set for 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at Ezekiel Lutheran Church.
The concert will include performances from The Croix Chordsmen barbershop chorus, the Pierce County Ecumenical Choir, the new River Falls Ecumenical Choir, the River Falls First Congregational United Church of Christ chorus, and the UW-River Falls Community Choir. The concert will also include a congregational hymn-sing, and several mass chorus pieces directed by Scott Perau.
Also included will be an update on the school supported by the concert, which is in Ganthier, Haiti. All concert proceeds go to support staff at a school built there by a group of local people, said organizer Curt Larson. The proceeds are gathered via a free-will donation at the concert.
Larson was part of a group of five from Ezekiel Lutheran Church who visited Haiti years ago on a pilgrimage sponsored by "Food for the Poor." When they returned, a committee met and raised money to build homes. Later, they built the school in Ganthier.
Larson said the local group sends $30,000 to the school each year. Last year's free-will collection at the concert brought in about half of that.
The rest of the money comes from donations. Larson said it's always nice to see the generosity of those who support the school, whether they're donating at the concert or separately.
"Whether you give a little or a lot, it depends on your means," he said. "The amount isn't important. It's just that if people have been blessed greatly, then they can bless greatly."
The concert and the school are just one effort to support children in Haiti. A group of local people also creates dresses for girls and shorts for boys out of pillowcases and T-shirts.
Larson also found a way to help build a new orphanage.
Larson said the local group has long worked with a priest in Haiti, the Rev. Emmanuel Sainteliat. Sainteliat had been pastor in the parish where the school is located since it was built. Now, Sainteliat is pastor in a different village in the same commune (similar to a county) as Ganthier Village.
That village is very near the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, which created many orphans in the area, Larson said.
Sainteliat's congregation managed to build a small home for 15 orphan children, who sleep on the ground in one room.
Recently, Larson said, a good friend of his wife's called him.
"And said 'I don't' know why I haven't thought of this before, but I know of a source where you could apply for money for a project in Haiti," Larson said.
Larson applied and received a $30,000 grant to build an orphanage. Construction has already begun. The building will have a bedroom for boys and one for girls, a study room, a small chapel, a kitchen and bathrooms with flush toilets.
There will also be space for the adult woman who lives with and cares for the orphans. They have access to a school as well.
Larson's plan for the orphanage detailed a $30,000 building. Then he received a call from his wife's friend letting him know about the $30,000 Haiti grant opportunity. He applied and received the funding. Coincidence?
"Things happen miraculously sometimes," Larson said.