To our hometown’s credit, untold hundreds and thousands of Cleveland and Bradley County residents routinely step up to help others in need whose fragile lives hang in the uneasy balance between humanitarian care and disappointing apathy.
Sometimes such need is found in the community; we are reminded of the tornado outbreaks of April 27, 2011, and March 2, 2012.
Sometimes such need lies within our national borders but within another region; we are reminded of the assault by Superstorm Sandy upon millions of our distant neighbors in the Northeast.
Sometimes such need lies outside our mainland, across a gulf, a sea or even an ocean; although their heartbreak came almost three years ago, the people of Haiti — the most impoverished nation of the Western Hemisphere — remain in recovery from the devastating 7.0 earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, that took the lives of 310,000 people and destroyed 90 percent of the structures within the epicenter which is considered to be the town of Leogane.
Located some 18 miles west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, Leogane is the site of the 29th annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, an endeavor that embraces the Habitat for Humanity mission worldwide. Need is so severe in Haiti that this is the first time in its history the J&RCWP has returned to the same location.
In 2011, U.S. and Haitian volunteers built 100 Habitat homes in Leogane. This week, another 600 volunteers — some of them returnees — will erect another 100 modest wood and concrete houses. The volunteers are thought to include 300 U.S. citizens who flew to the tiny island nation last Saturday from Atlanta, and another 300 native Haitian workers.
Among the American laborers is Cleveland resident Ray Aubrey, a 65-year-old group leader in the Materials Department at Whirlpool Cleveland Division. For several years now, Ray has dedicated himself as a staunch believer in, and a frequent volunteer for, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland and the Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross.
We told his story on the front page of Monday’s edition of this newspaper.
Working Habitat home builds is nothing new to the husband, father and grandfather.
In 2007, he represented Whirlpool Cleveland Division in a corporate-sponsored blitz build in Phoenix and again in 2009 in Atlanta. In 2008, he joined a Whirlpool team to help in a Carter Work Project build in Biloxi, Miss., following Hurricane Katrina. Locally, he has been involved in a variety of Whirlpool-sponsored builds for the local Habitat affiliate.
In a “Letter to the Editor” to our newspaper submitted prior to departing for Haiti last Saturday, Ray talked of the coming J&RCWP initiative and its direct ties to Habitat for Humanity. He encouraged other Cleveland and Bradley County residents to use the year-ending holiday season to jump-start their own commitment to help others through volunteerism.
The full letter may be found on this page.
We will quote from one excerpt, “The many holidays that come during the next two months encourage us to be thankful and to give back to others who are less fortunate. I hope my story of giving will inspire others in the Cleveland area to take time out over the next month or year, and to give back to our community or to a larger global issue.”
We agree, and we thank Ray on two points.
First, and most importantly, we offer kudos for his involvement in this week’s Haitian build. He barely had time to spend Thanksgiving with his family before driving to Atlanta to board a plane for the devastated island nation.
And second, we credit his willingness to talk about the decision to help and his plea for others to do the same — whether at the community, national or global level.
Volunteerism gets its good name from the kind acts of people like Ray Aubrey.
We thank Ray, and the thousands just like him, both in and outside our community.