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Group plans major relief effort in Haiti
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Ted Garner, right, gets a hand with packing from Kristina Rhoades, left, and Juli Clay. Garner, Brenau University director of media services, is leading a relief trip to Haiti that was scheduled to leave Saturday.

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Ted Garner, director of media services at Brenau, talks about an upcoming relief trip to Haiti.

Ted Garner has taken mission trips to Haiti regularly since 1983.

Simply put, the country where he earned his doctorate has long held a special place in his heart.

“When I heard about the earthquake, I and a whole lot of people went to their knees in prayer,” said Garner, director of mediaservices at Brenau University in Gainesville. “We knew it was going to be devastating for an already devastated country.”

What started as a relief effort planned by a few people at Garner’s Gainesville church, Atlanta Road Church of Christ, has grown into a massive undertaking.

A group of 26 people, including 16 church members, have raised $140,000 to carry out reconstruction efforts in Haiti, which was wrecked by a Jan. 12 earthquake that may have killed as many as 300,000 people.

“This is by and away the largest group I’ve ever taken down,” Garner said.

The trip began taking shape about two weeks after the earthquake when church member Vince Strine, a former Hall County football coach who now leads a team at Chattahoochee High School in Alpharetta, approached Garner and others about a trip.

“He said he had some kids who wanted to give up their spring break to help in Haiti,” Garner said.

Although struck by the gesture, Garner said he wondered if the trip could be pulled together so quickly.

“Normally, on any kind of mission trip, I have a year or at least six months to prepare,” he added.

After much prayer and talking with various people, church members found excitement mounting for the trip.

“We’ve had people from as far away as Chicago ... who want to be a part of it,” Garner said.

Plenty of people have worked behind the scenes to make the trip work, including a donation of ready-to-eat meals by the Gainesville-based 802nd Ordnance Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit that has been deployed to Afghanistan since December.

“There has been a tremendous outpouring of love,” Garner said.

Strine said past experience inspired him to approach church members after the earthquake.

While at Harding University in Arkansas in the late 1990s, he and 30 other players went to Honduras to help clean up after a devastating hurricane.

“We built houses and played with kids at the orphanage,” Strine said.

The trip “had a huge impact on my life, to see what it’s like in a country like that ... what it’s like to help people who are in desperate need,” he said.

Strine added that he wanted his own players to realize “there’s more to our world than just Alpharetta, Ga., more than what you see on TV.”

He and several of his players will be taking the trip to Haiti.

Garner left Wednesday to make preparations for the rest of his group, which was scheduled to fly to Haiti on Saturday. The group will stay outside of Port-au-Prince.

“We’re not going to be in the immediate area where the military will be patrolling,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure we have our security provided.”

Plus, the group will have to provide its own food, tools and accommodations.

The greatest expense, however, “is in rebuilding the churches and schools and possibly an orphanage,” Garner said.

“Whatever is left over — whether it’s the tents that we stay in, the (military meals), the cots we’re sleeping on, the clothing, all the tools we’re carrying and generators — stays over there for the people to use,” he said.

“The group comes (out of Haiti) on April 10 with just the clothes they are wearing.”

Strine, who hasn’t been on a relief or mission trip since Honduras, said he hopes one trip isn’t all.

“I hope it will grow into (something) bigger where we can go back in a year’s time and I can take 10 or 15 members of the football team,” he said.

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