Life for Haiti Foundation USA
To donate items, visit the foundation's drop box at 1515 Skelton Road in Gainesville. Clothing and small household items are accepted. For more information, call 770-718-9263.
Tim Shoda is giving Haiti a bus.
Not just any bus, though. After several months, the Gainesville man and more than 100 volunteers from Shallotte, N.C.-based Jesus Way Christian Ministries have transformed a former school bus into a fully operational dental clinic.
It has been nearly two years since Haiti was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, but Shoda wants the relief efforts to continue.
"Our purpose here in Gainesville, Ga., is to meet the needs of the Haitian people," Shoda said. "Since the earthquake, they've had difficulty with building needs and also dental needs and medical needs."
Shoda and his wife, Karen Shoda, were involved in the dental industry and now recruit other dentists to help with their efforts in Haiti.
Around the time of the earthquake, the Shodas, along with their ministry, began collecting building supplies to donate to the devastated country.
"With the need of getting them into Haiti we've always felt like we needed a wheeled vehicle to get the items there," Tim Shoda said. "It's just easier to get items through customs if you have a wheeled vehicle."
So in the last nearly seven months, Shoda and other volunteers have spent countless hours prepping the bus as a mobile dental center and are now loading it full of supplies in preparation for its departure Monday.
The bus has spent that time in a warehouse on Skelton Road that belongs to Life For Haiti Foundation USA.
The bus, though — which was donated with 88,000 miles on it from a school system in West Virginia — is not the first vehicle the ministry has shipped to Haiti.
"We've had at least two containers go as a joint effort between other ministries," Tim Shoda said. "We had a van donated by a local church that we shipped a few years ago, which is our means of transportation on the ground now in Haiti."
With so much space inside the stripped-out bus, the group plans to prepare another one in the
future because of its storage capabilities.
"This is an ongoing process for us," Tim Shoda said. "It's not just a one-time deal."
Tim Shoda was first exposed to the poverty-stricken conditions in Haiti in 1997 when he visited with the ministry's founder, Bishop Paul Adams.
"After my first visit I had seen the great need of the poverty and the children," he said. "It worked on my heart, so to speak, and I just felt like I wanted to do all that I could do to help the people."
Karen Shoda, though, has even more experience than her husband in Haiti. Her first mission trip to the country was in 1989.
"I worked for a dentist and he went every February, so I started going once a year for a dental clinic," she said. "Medical is needed, but dental hardly gets attention there."
Each of the Shodas' five children are also involved with the project.
Josh Shoda, 23, said he is proud of his parents for their commitment to Haitian relief efforts.
"I remember as a kid when Dad got into mission work with Haiti," Josh Shoda said. "It amazes me how much it's evolved and how involved he has gotten. It's a good thing. I'm actually really proud of him."
There are two dental stations inside the bus and the relief group has its own medical coordinator.
"Most people don't realize it, but there's still over a million people living in tents in Haiti — have no houses," Tim Shoda said. "Along with that they have medical needs, they have dental needs, they have all types of needs."
The bus is also equipped with air conditioning units and medical stations. It is fully funded through donations.
Other items being shipped and dispersed in Haiti include generators, windows, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, paint and electronic equipment.
Tim Shoda and another volunteer will leave Sunday for the shipping port in Miami and rendezvous with the bus when it arrives in Haiti at the beginning of November.
The group accepts donations of clothing and small household items at its location at 1515 Skelton Road. For information on ways to donate or volunteer, call 770-718-9263.