Published August 6, 2015
TYRONE—How would you like to have brunch with legendary University of Georgia Coach Vince Dooley and his wife, Barbara? Or take a nap in your very own handmade porch bed?
How about a week at the beach, or would you prefer the mountains?
All of these and more can be yours if you attend Casino Night at Our Lady of Victory School on Saturday, Aug. 29, to benefit the Haiti Mission Team of St. Matthew Church, Tyrone. The school is adjacent to the church.
The evening will include Las Vegas style gaming—just for fun—music, dancing, heavy hors d’oeuvres and dessert bar, a silent auction and 50-50 raffle. It will be held from 6 to 10:30 p.m.
Brunch with the Dooleys is one of the auction items, as are weeks at beach or mountain vacation homes and other unique items.
The event is held annually to fund the trip that about 14 of St. Matthew’s parishioners take to Espwa in Les Cayes, Haiti. The mission trip is open to anyone in the parish. To date over 80 teens, retirees, doctors, nurses, teachers and people with big hearts have traveled to Haiti representing the parish. The trips are supported by the entire parish, not only in putting on this evening but also by donating items to take to Haiti to benefit Espwa and Blessed Mother Teresa’s hospital in Les Cayes, bringing with them needed items ranging from over-the-counter children’s medications to clothing, school supplies and soccer balls
Espwa (which means hope in Creole) is located 120 miles from Port-au-Prince outside of Les Cayes. Over 500 children live there and are clothed, fed, sheltered, educated, given medical and dental care and hope. One hundred additional children come from the surrounding area to be educated. The village was founded in 1998 by Father Marc Boisvert, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate priest.
The mission team also spends time at the Les Cayes Missionaries of Charity Hospital and visits Catholic Relief Services’ programs in the area.
Parishioner Diana Gaskins, a retired nurse, said she’s been “very fortunate” to go on three St. Matthew mission trips.
“Before we left on the first one, Deacon Bill Hampton told the group, ‘This will change your life.’ He was absolutely right about that. It is an awesome experience in many senses of the word,” Gaskins said.
The fundraiser makes it possible for parishioners to go at no cost. They have cleaned buildings, painted rooms, hosted a birthday party for 500 children, staffed a medical clinic, organized a pharmacy, taught English, repaired electrical wiring, restored computers and put up satellite dishes, Gaskins said.
In addition to the children who live at Espwa, Gaskins said, a number walk in daily to receive food and to go to school. “It is beyond words,” she said.
Nurse practitioner Melissa Parente, 32, has gone on the mission trips in 2014 and 2015 and plans to go next January. “I would go in a heartbeat,” said Parente, who will work at the Casino Night fundraiser.
Seeing patients alongside a mission trip physician at the Espwa clinic, giving a public health presentation and helping with the birthday party for 500, “there is so much to do when you are there,” Parente said of her experiences.
“The people of Haiti are absolutely amazing. They have smiles that are so big. The people are so warm and so friendly, especially at Espwa. They are doing good things there,” she said. “Without a doubt I’m receiving as much as I am giving.”
Rick Helms, a manager for Delta Airlines, went on mission trips in 2013 and 2014.
He said in an email, “I thought I had my vision about missions pretty clear: we would go down there and help. … It didn’t even occur to me that those beautiful children and the adults who work inside the compound at Les Cayes would minister to me to a far greater extent than any good deed I perceived I would be able to deliver.”
“It was a very humbling epiphany for me, but at the same time I was virtually awash in the love and joy and innocence of the children inside the compound,” he wrote. “The love and security and sincere devotion those kids engender within those walls are in stark contrast to the abject poverty outside them. Father Marc brings real hope to a desperate situation.”
Tickets for the night are $35 per person or $45 per couple and may be purchased by calling St. Matthew Church at 770-964-5804. Can’t attend? You may donate to help support this worthwhile event. Donations may be sent to St. Matthew Catholic Church, 215 Kirkley Road, Tyrone, GA 30177. Our Lady of Victory School is located at 211 Kirkley Road, Tyrone. Contact 770-964-5804 or www.saintmatthew.us.