Mooseheart Working With Federal, State Officials To Take In As Many
As 50 Displaced Children From Haitian Earthquake Disaster
|'It goes to the heart of our responsibility to care for children in need,' says Hart
MOOSEHEART, IL, Monday, Jan. 25 -- Officials of Mooseheart Child City & School, Illinois' largest residential children's home, have been working since early last week to prepare for the likelihood of taking in as many as 50 children who have been orphaned or otherwise displaced in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that ravaged the Caribbean island nation of Haiti.
Mooseheart Child City & School, a 1,000-acre community and school for children in need, located just south of Batavia, IL, is working with federal and state officials to take in up to 50 displaced children from the Haitian earthquake disaster on an emergency basis. Mooseheart was founded in 1913, and continues to be supported by, the men and women of the Moose fraternal organization.
(Update, Feb. 4: Mooseheart Executive Director Scott D. Hart said today that Mooseheart remains committed and prepared to accept and care for orphaned or otherwise displaced children from Haiti for a period of weeks or months. "But in recent days," Hart said, "it has become increasingly clear that the Haitian government is exercising extreme care in determining whether children are truly without parents or guardians before releasing them to any outside caregiver. We are told this may mean a process of many weeks, if not months or longer. While this is understandable, we would hope that the immediate physical welfare of the child would always be the paramount consideration. We at Mooseheart remain willing to help in any way we practically can do so.")
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Mooseheart Executive Director Scott D. Hart was put in touch with contacts at both the U.S. State Department and the White House, through Darell Hammond, a 1989 Mooseheart graduate who is CEO of KaBOOM Inc., a Washington, DC-based nonprofit which coordinates the construction of playgrounds in underprivileged areas throughout North America.
Since then, Hart has been working mostly with representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which would coordinate the children's placement. "They've established a priority order for evacuations from Haiti," he said, "the first being American citizens; the second group is orphans who were already in the adoption process prior to the earthquake on Jan. 12 -- these children will be transported directly to their adoptive parents."
"All other orphans, and what the government classifies as 'unaccompanied children', constitute the third group, and it is from this group that children would come to us," said Hart. "As of today (Jan. 25), we're being told that the government is still working on the first group. So we could be getting a call in a matter of days from now, or it could be a few weeks; we don't know."
One significant objective was achieved last Friday, Hart said -- that being a formal waiver from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which licenses Mooseheart, to allow Mooseheart to provide temporary care of orphans without guardians.
In the meantime, Hart has been working with his staff to ensure that there will be enough room and caregivers available in four campus residences on short notice, along with food and other supplies. Siblings would be kept together to the extent practical, he said.
For children who know nothing but a warm Caribbean climate, winter clothing is being gathered, Hart said, "but we will likely be approaching local retailers we deal with regularly, to ask for a clothes-shopping donation once we know for certain that our help will be needed, and for how many."
"We have offered temporary accommodations for up to 50," said Hart, "but we don't know how many children we will be sent, or their age range." He added that "we really don't know at this point exactly how long 'temporary' might be--it could mean a few days, weeks or months."
Hart said, "We would likely be seeking volunteers from the community who are relatively fluent in French, as we understand that many of the children we would be receiving may speak very little English." Those qualified and willing to volunteer are asked to contact Hart's office at 630-906-3601.
"We are excited about the potential to serve," said Hart. "Obviously, undertaking this mission is outside our normal pattern--but it certainly goes to the heart of our responsibility to 'care for children in need.'>
"Now, we look forward to the next steps, and we continue to keep the victims of the tragedy in forefront of our thoughts and prayers," Hart said. "We will certainly advise with additional information when we know more."
Meanwhile, Mooseheart's student body has been planning several fundraisers toward Haitian relief. Among them, the Family & Consumer Sciences Class is staging a bake sale this Friday, Jan. 29, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross Haitian Relief; additionally, Supt. of Education Gary Urwiler is permitting students to wear hats in school on the same day, Friday, Jan. 29, with all proceeds also going to the American Red Cross. Fundraiser discussions are also in the works among the Cosmetology and Automotive Repair classes, Urwiler said.
Founded in 1913, Mooseheart is supported completely through private donations - the great majority of which come from the 1.1 million men and women of the Moose fraternal organization, in more than 1,800 Lodges and 1,600 Chapters located throughout the U.S. , Canada , Great Britain and Bermuda . Moose International headquarters is located on the Mooseheart campus.
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to nearly 230 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville , FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $90 million worth of community service programs annually.
Founded in 1888, the Moose organization has long offered its members an opportunity to do good for others while celebrating life, with family, social, and sporting activities. For more information on the Moose organization, visit the websites at www.mooseintl.org, www.mooseheart.org, www.moosehaven.org, or call 630-966-2229.