Long Islanders have mobilized in response to reports of the devastation in Haiti, organizing drives and making donations at a moment's notice.

Churches are starting special collections, and area schools are holding fundraisers. The phones at the American Red Cross in Nassau County have been ringing all day with calls from people wishing to donate.

>>PHOTOS: Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

"It just goes to show that during the worst of times, the best in people comes out," Red Cross spokesman Sam Kille said.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre will take up a special collection at all 133 of its parishes over the next two Sundays to assist victims of the earthquake in Haiti, Bishop William Murphy said Wednesday.

Murphy said the diocese will work with the Vatican and entities such as Catholic Relief Services to ensure funds are dispersed to areas of greatest need.

"We also keep in our prayers, people of our own diocese who are concerned for family in Port-au-Prince or in the surrounding areas," Murphy said.

Images of the earthquake stirred the fifth-graders at Lindell Elementary School in Long Beach. They had planned to sell beaded jewelry to raise money for their class fund, which makes donations at the end of the year and pays for student activities.

Instead, the students will donate profits from the jewelry - which goes for 50 cents to $1 - to the relief effort. Teacher Kathy Virgona said her students were looking for something they could do right away to raise money and awareness.

"They're good at this, they can make the jewelry, and they feel good because they're actually doing it themselves," Virgona said.

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Merrick Avenue Middle School in Merrick will hold "Flannel PJs Day" later this week. For a $1 donation, students will get to wear their pajamas to school. Other schools are holding bake sales and coin drives.

Local hospitals are also getting involved. Nassau University Medical Center is setting up drop-off points at the East Meadow hospital and at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care, in Uniondale for canned food, water and some clothing, said spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg.

Lotenberg, who estimated that several hundred employees who work at either the hospital, nursing home or one of the health clinics are of Haitian descent, said they will also offer grief counseling and hold a memorial service.

Kille, of Nassau's Red Cross, said the strong response is similar to calls for help after past disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

"We started getting phone calls last night and phone calls all day long from people asking how they can help," he said. "We do know from past history that Long Islanders are very generous during these times."

 

Major earthquake hits Haiti

With Gary Dymski, Ridgely Ochs

and Sophia Chang

>>PHOTOS: Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

>> LIVE: Twitter coverage of the scene in Haiti, from aid agencies, and reaction worldwide

>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI

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>> MORE: Read more about LIers grieving and LI's efforts to help | Latest news from Haiti | Haiti's road to chaos: 2006 Newsday series

 


HOW TO HELP

* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

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* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-UNICEF
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders
-AmeriCares