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LIers contribute to massive Haiti relief effort

Moved by images of devastation and, in many cases, touched by personal loss in the Haiti earthquake, Long Islanders and people across the country have opened their pockets in an unprecedented outpouring of support despite an ongoing recession.

The Red Cross has raised $90 million in the United States, including $21 million from text-message pledges, Nassau Red Cross spokesman Sam Kille said.

Fundraising in the first 48 hours after the earthquake outpaced the same time period following the 2004 Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said.

"As soon as the earthquake hit the news, the phones here at the National Red Cross, as well as at the chapter, started ringing off the hook," Kille said. "It has been wonderful to see how, in the worst of times, the best in people comes out."

Craig Cooper, spokesman for the organization's Suffolk County chapter, said his office has been flooded with "hundreds upon hundreds of calls."

On Long Island, groups also are mobilizing to collect medical supplies and canned foods, and travel to Haiti to participate in the relief effort.

Al Brandel, chairman of Lions Club International Foundation, said he plans to fly Wednesday with his wife, Maureen Murphy, a doctor at Winthrop-University Hospital, to the Dominican Republic, where they will take a convoy of trucks laden with $50,000 worth of emergency goods and supplies across the border into Haiti. Then they will meet with USAID and surviving members of the three Haitian Lions Clubs to begin planning long-term recovery projects, said Brandel, of Melville.

The Lions foundation responded to Katrina, the tsunami and the 2008 China earthquake, and continues to work in those areas, offering vocational training and rebuilding homes and villages.

Local Haitian-American doctors are still trying to get to Haiti. About 50 members of the New York chapter of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad were hoping to fly to Port-au-Prince early Monday morning. But the flight was canceled at the last minute, said Dr. Lambros Angus, the head of trauma at Nassau University Medical Center and a member of the association's New York chapter. Angus said the group has been put on standby for another flight.

"They have instructions to be ready at a moment's notice," he said.

The group is hoping to join Dr. Louis Auguste, president of the New York chapter and a surgeon at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, and the 50 or so other members who arrived in the capital Sunday night and have been working out of one of the local hospitals since then.

Another Long Island group, including a dozen doctors, nurses and other volunteers, is hoping to board a volunteer corporate jet bound for Cap Haitien. The Orlando-based nonprofit organization Clean the World, which recycles hotel soap and distributes it in Third World countries, is now organizing these corporate flights loaded with doctors, medical supplies and soap.

Meanwhile, local elected officials have opened their office doors to collect first aid supplies, canned goods and antibacterial products, to be flown to Haiti on Thursday.

"Right now, there's a lot of people that are not being reached out to," said Ketlie Chrispin, president of the Long Island-based Haitian Americans United for Change, which is coordinating the shipment. "We'll try to see if we can reach out to the people who haven't been touched yet."

With Jennifer Barrios and Vanessa Sanchez

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