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Davis felt Haiti shake on humanitarian mission
Lonny Davis of Ceres was in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

He was there on Jan. 12 sipping beer during a brief break in four-day humanitarian trip to deliver wheelchairs to the poor.

The chair began to move in calypso rhythm to the music of the outdoor cafe.

Little did he know that the nation next door, Haiti, was being shaken to the core and tens of thousands were dying in a 7.0 Richter scale quake.

In seconds he knew what that familar movement was: an earthquake.

"This one felt like the Loma Prieta Quake that shook our region back in '89 and tore up the San Fransisco Bay area," said Davis.

Other members of the Rotary District 5220 from Ceres, Modesto Sunrise, Escalon Sunrise and Riverbank clubs, knew as well.

The humanitarians were helpless to do anything for Haiti.

Santo Domingo escaped serious damage and the team was unaware of the scope of the tragedy until they returned to their hotel and tuned to CNN that evening. That's when they learned that Port Au Prince less than 150 miles away was in shambles.

"We soon began to hear and see helicopters headed west to Haiti and transport planes being diverted to the Santo Domingo airport with supplies and rescue workers who were then capturing whatever type of ground transportation they could find to Port Au Prince and the epicenter of the tragedy, said Davis.

The next day the team continued distributing a whole container of Hope Haven International wheelchairs that had been stored in Ceres. They also distributed rehabilitation equipment to the disabled poor there. Those who received chairs were identified as needy by the Santo Domingo Rotary Clubs and the Association of Rehabilitation in Santo Domingo. Davis' group handed out specialty wheelchairs and equipment for children suffering from disabilities including spinabifida, cerebral palsy, polio, spinal cord injuries and other crippling diseases.

The effort was made possible by Hope Haven International through a matching grant funded by Rotarians in District 5220 who donated $5,891 and the Rotary Foundation who contributed $14,528 towards this mission.

In addition to the 175 individuals the team was able to custom fit into wheelchairs at the Rehab Center, they left 25 folding wheelchairs with the local Rotarians. They plan to loan the chairs to individuals with short-term needs resulting from surgery or injury. Once the recipient no longer needs the chair it will returned to the "wheelchair bank" for use by others in Santo Domingo.

Davis and others were assisted by members of Carolina Mobility and Seating who provided professional expertise in seating persons for the chair specific to their physical condition.

Davis said Rotarians got involved in the project as a way of giving the gift of mobility to the poor, resulting in dignity and opportunity.

"As our plane taxied down a runway crowded with cargo and military planes from every corner of the planet my thoughts turned to all the thousands in Haiti on the other end of this island who will need mobility assistance. Probably not the last time Hope Haven International and Rotary district 5220 will visit this island."