Haiti President Accept School Supplies

Haiti's president, Rene Garcia Preval, is expected to visit Tampa late today to accept donations of school supplies from the Hillsborough Education Foundation for his quake-ravaged island nation.

Through its Teaching Tools program, the foundation will turn over two pallets of crayons, notebooks, recycled paper, pens and pencils and two paper cutters as well as furniture, desks and chairs, spokeswoman Melinda Dale said today.

The supplies will help Haiti as it rebuilds schools in the aftermath of January's earthquake near Port-au-Prince. More than 200,000 people were killed, 300,000 injured and another 100,000 left homeless, according to recent reports.

Preval will visit the warehouse site in Corporex Park late this afternoon along with the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda, Ian Sweeney, whose daughter attends kindergarten at St. John's Episcopal Parish Day School in Tampa.

Sweeney got the call to help which resulted in a service project for St. John's Dads Club, said Cindy Fenlon, the school's director of institutional advancement.

The school is collecting other items, including baby formula and diapers, sleeping bags, tents, canned food and water now through March 12.

In addition, a member of the foundation's Teaching Tools committee joined the effort to collect school supplies, Dale said.

"It's an incredible opportunity for us," she said. "We're always happy to provide supplies to children in need."

Teaching Tools provides at-risk students in Hillsborough with basic school supplies. The store also allows teachers from county schools with special programs for low-income families to visit once a month and pick out $250 worth of free items for their classrooms.

Locally, the program reaches about 1,800 teachers and more than 50,000 students a year. Now, it's helping children worldwide, Dale said.

The Hillsborough Education Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to garner public and private support for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Preval's trip to the United States included a visit with President Obama in Washington on Wednesday, where Obama pledged to continue providing financial assistance and humanitarian. With spring rains ahead, he added, "the challenge is now to prevent a second disaster."

Preval expressed thanks to the United States for its "massive, spontaneous, generous help." The disaster is a signal, he said, that world relief efforts "must be improved."
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