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LI church members prepare to visit Haiti

Evelyn Freudenberger of West Babylon admits she is a little nervous.

The wife of one of two pastors at the Copiague Christian Church, she and 13 others from the church are leaving Saturday for Haiti, which is in the midst of a cholera outbreak and a controversial presidential election.

"I have some concerns, not knowing what we're going to find," she said. "But you've got to trust in the Lord."

The congregation of only 50 members has managed to raise $22,000 for the weeklong trip to a church site in Port-au-Prince, where 25,000 refugees streamed in after January's earthquake. They are bringing suitcases jammed with clothes, soap, toothbrushes, sheets and towels. Once there, they plan to build a handful of semi-permanent shelters on the 20-acre site, cook for 500-600 children each day, play soccer, and do arts and crafts projects with orphans.

They will not be the only Copiague church in Haiti next week: Seven parishioners from the Circle of Love Ministry Worldwide are leaving Tuesday for four days in the capital, where they will distribute $4,000 worth of groceries, 70,000 vitamins, 50 dresses and 500 coloring books - and paint a church school.

The pastors from both churches visited Haiti together in April and came back determined to help. Traveling to Haiti close to Christmas was an unintended but happy coincidence, said Paul Vaccaro, co-pastor with George Freudenberger at Copiague Christian Church. The two groups hope they can meet one night when they are in Port-au-Prince.

Their goals are modest and concrete.

Roy Kirton, pastor of Circle of Love Ministry Worldwide, said his group's focus will be on children who have been traumatized and the clergy who need support.

"Really our goal is just to bring some comfort to the children and assist the pastors and hopefully encourage them," he said.

Vaccaro said their focus will be on children as well, especially the 100 orphans. One of the crafts planned is to take pictures of all the orphans and let them decorate their own frame - a way to let kids with no family know they are special.

Debbie Hollweg of Copiague, who is going with Vaccaro, said she expected the trip would add meaning to the holiday season.

"What better Christmas present to the Lord than to take care of his people and to put some smiles on some faces?" she said.

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