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It’s a learning curve, knowing how to help people

January 31, 2010
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

You never know who's reading The Messenger.

Got an e-mail Monday from a woman named Pam Neubaum who lives in the Dominican Republic. She had read about New Covenant Christian Church collecting donations to send to Haiti and had a few suggestions to make. I don't know this woman, but the suggestions seem valid.

"They are asking for canned goods," she wrote. "I don't think they realize that most Haitians do not own a can opener and have no way of opening the cans, so please suggest to them that they send canned goods with pull top-lids.

"They are also asking for blankets; the temps here are in the 80s and 90s most every day. In the evenings it will get down to the upper 60s and 70s, so most of the blankets will only be used as a shade from the sun. Maybe sheets would be better for them as they are lighter weight and can be held up easier by the sticks and branches that they are using.

"They definitely need clothes as most everything is buried under the rubble. As far as shoe and socks, I'm not so sure of that, maybe send sandals or something like that as most Haitians do not wear socks and most don't wear shoes. I'm sure they would appreciate those now as God only knows what they are walking on.

"Another thing they can use is powdered soy milk. This is one of their staples. Their main food consists of rice and beans, but they have no way to cook them. It is a very frustrating time for them. If (people) want to send those, they will need to send pots to cook it in."

You realize, this is one person's take on what's needed. New Covenant asked only for items on a list by the parent organization dealing with a church in Carrefour, Haiti.

It's a learning curve, I guess, knowing how to help people.

Another learning-curve first is going to be the Tuesday morning program at Oleson Park Zoo.

Mayor Matt Bemrich will take a page from the Punxsutawney, Pa., book on groundhogs and hold up Rocket, the Oleson Park groundhog, in a 7:30 a.m. ceremony at the zoo.

If Rocket, like Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow, he's supposed to crawl back into hibernation for another six weeks of winter. If he fails to see his shadow, he will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will end soon.

I always figured if he saw his shadow, the sun would be out and he'd think winter was ending. Go figure.

Anyway, Rocket was a gift to the zoo from Rabiner Boys Ranch, and until Tuesday's party with Mayor Bemrich will have been happily hibernating, oblivious of the winter storms.

By the way, Vicky and Scott Groat are new zoo managers. Jim Kramer is president of the Friends of Oleson Park Zoo, and Diane Happel is vice president of the group. They're all pretty excited, as you might guess, about this Groundhog Day ceremony, which is the first such ceremony in Fort Dodge. It's open to the public, and Tom Thumb will even provide doughnuts and coffee for the event.

This just shows you how life goes on. It should remind us that help is needed somewhere any day of the week, and no matter how simple life can be in one spot of the world - or how much fun - we still need to offer what we can to plug the heartache of loss.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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