By Christine Davis Frank McKinney, Delray Beach real estate developer and founder of the Haitian charitable foundation The Caring House Project, has been chartering planes to travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, along with medical and search-and-rescue experts.
Four Delray Beach firefighters — Ed Beardsley, Ed Crelin, Steve Moews and Greg Tabeek — were part of the first group to respond in mid-January. The group set up tents and slept at the end of the runway of the city’s airport. They took search assignments from United Nations officials and worked with a Peruvian rescue team and Jordanian and Nicaraguan security teams. “During the time that we were there, 43 people were extracted,” McKinney said. “We were responsible for four rescues.” The first people they rescued were trapped in an apartment building, and it took more than 12 hours to dig them out. The third rescue, a man trapped under a metal bed in the collapsed Doctors Without Borders hospital, took a little under three hours to free. A fourth man was taken to the hospital by McKinney, who had been flagged down while acting as an “ambulance driver,” he said. By the time McKinney’s first team left, there were “2,500 search-and-rescue individuals from 49 countries,” he said. Now, though, as the search and rescue portion is finished, the relief effort is under way. “At the point of our departure, huge cargo planes were being offloaded by 5,000 military,” McKinney said. On Jan. 21, McKinney sent a second plane with 3,000 pounds of food to the town of Jeremie. The Caring House Project has raised $3 million over the past 12 years to build self-sustaining villages. “Through the schools and orphanages, the project has touched the lives of 4,500 people,” McKinney said. Now, half of the villages are either completely destroyed or damaged. The Caring House Project was ready to build three more villages this year, but McKinney will put that off until next year, he said. “The funds we had set aside we used for the search and rescue effort. Our charity is also good at rebuilding, but that’s phase six, and now is not the time for that.”