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Haitians aim for more philanthropy from within

Carla St.Louis | 1/23/2014, 9 a.m.
At an intimate meet-and-greet for the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, Blacks from differing ethnicities took advantage of ...

At an intimate meet-and-greet for the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, Blacks from differing ethnicities took advantage of the evening’s tagline, “let’s connect” to share ideas, discuss challenges and recount successes pertaining to Miami-Dade County’s Haitian community.

Held at Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center new members mingled with old members and community activists while discussing a common theme in the night’s speeches--i.e., philanthropy within the Haitian community.

Paola Pierre, HACCOF Executive Director welcomed new members like the Liberty Neighborhood Pharmacy, Genard & Associates, LLC, and Phil Multi Services.

The night’s host, Gepsie Morrisset-Metellus, executive director of Sant La spoke candidly about the perception that Haitians don’t actively participate in philanthropy, a belief she explained as “unwarranted” considering Haitians accomplishments within their community.

“This misconception that Haitians don’t participate in civic engagement is unwarranted,” she said. “For people to assume it’s no longer acceptable when in fact I see it around us--referring to Sant La--it’s all about the philanthropic endeavors of Haitian-Americans. Look at the renovations at Notre Dame Church--7,000 square feet isn’t free.”

Metellus encouraged attendees to “set their philanthropic game up” by “supporting organizations that you’re familiar with” as many “non-profit organizations function as businesses and every financial contribution helps” the Haitian community at-large.

The meeting was attended by school board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, whom despite not being Haitian attended as a gesture to her constituents and agreed with her comments on philanthropy.

“There is an aspect of independence [when discussing] philanthropy,” said Bendross-Mindingall. “It means giving back and taking responsibility for the betterment of their community. Following this philanthropic attitude empowers us to tackle the many challenges of our community.”

“For 2014, let’s prove that we can get it done,” Metellus challenged guests.

Metellus said she hopes to increase philanthropy within the Haitian community by focusing on a plan that encompasses funding, messaging and organization.

“The Haitian Chamber of Commerce of South Florida and Sant La are both organizations determined to serve their community,” said Bendross-Mindingall. “As the school board member for District 2, I too serve the people of Miami-Dade County. I had simply hoped to make clear that as public servants we are all bound by our mission to raise the quality of our community and that working together is an advantage to that feat.”

The Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida serves as an advocate for the Haitian community by acting as a resource for consumers and businesses in regards to economic development. It encourages partnerships between Haiti and Florida for a strong and healthy business climate, public and private sector collaboration and entrepreneurship within the community. For more information, log on to http://haccof.com.

Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center serves the community as a resource center for financial literacy, strengthening families, professional development, assistance with unemployment claims, job search, business correspondences and immigration services. For more information, log on to http://santla.org