Renee Plaza: Opening Her Heart to Help Haiti
Renee Plaza is helping to plan a benefit art auction called HeArts for Haiti, which will be held Aug. 11 at the Naperville Woman's Club.
Renee Plaza opened her heart to the people of Haiti before the earthquake left devastation throughout the country in January 2010.
Plaza was making donations to an orphanage there, but when the earthquake hit, she was moved to take more action. She made her first trip to Haiti to help rebuild the girls’ orphanage and church, which she supported.
Now, she is planning a fundraising event, which will help provide safe drinking water to people living in a remote area of the island nation.
The HeArts for Haiti silent art auction will be held Aug. 11 at the Naperville Woman’s Club location at 14 S. Washington St. The Woman’s Club and Impact Jesus are sponsoring the event, with the funds from the sale of art and other items helping to purchase, ship and distribute ceramic gravity feed water filters to families in the Pestel Region of Haiti.
“We are hoping to raise enough money for 200 families to get a filter,” Plaza said. Each unit costs roughly $65 to purchase and ship to Haiti.
While volunteering in Haiti (she makes trips several times every year), Plaza was in a village up in the mountains that was not accessible by road and it had a stream-fed lake that tested positive for cholera, she said. The people living there were given chlorine tablets to use temporarily to purify the water, but that wasn’t a permanent fix.
The gravity feed water filters can filter 30 gallons of water a day and the filter will last about a year, helping families in need have safe drinking water, she said. Along with bringing the families water filters, Plaza said she has connected with groups who can dig wells. The hope is to raise enough money in the future to dig a well.
“Once they get a well, it can last 25 to 30 years and changes life tremendously,” she said. “It allows mom and dad to go to work doing something else and allows kids to go to school. And, just alleviating the disease alone … it can change a generation—we hope.”
Plaza, a Bolingbrook resident and member of Wheatland-Salem United Methodist Church, retired from working at Unilever and had a lot of time on her hands, which was one of the reasons she began to volunteer and help out in Haiti, she said. She taught English to students along with doing other relief work. She volunteers at the New Life Children’s Home and Rescue Center.
“I’m in my Christian walk and very focused on it the last three years, since I’ve been out of work,” she said. “I am very focused on it and where does God want me. Working on HeArts [for Haiti], I’ve been getting calls from people who know people who want to donate. I know it’s from God. People say it’s something on my heart. I want to help.”
Much of the art that will be for sale and up for auction at the event has been created by Haitian artists. Pieces will include metal work, for which the artists are well known, she said.
Even while planning the event, Plaza is continuing her work in Haiti. On July 6, Plaza left for her most recent trip to Haiti with a group of eight women from her church who will be in the country two weeks. When she returns home she will be hard at work finishing the event planning.
Plaza is hopeful the fundraiser will bring in between $15,000 and $20,000. She expects to have about 500 pieces of art available for purchase or auction at the event.
The HeArts for Haiti silent art auction event will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Naperville Woman's Club, 14 S. Washington St. To learn more, visit the website or call 630-212-1705.