Smithfield, N.C. — Three single-engine planes took off from the Johnston County Airport on Monday, hauling vital medical supplies to Haiti to treat victims of last week's massive earthquake.
The North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church has collected 32 tons of donated items since last week, from blankets to diapers. Medical supplies like antibiotics, bandages and catheters were the first to be boxed up and loaded onto planes for shipment.
"It's just the right thing to do," volunteer Jim Lee said. "I think (one) airplane can save 100 to 200 lives. I don't know them, but somebody does."
Donations took off after people heard the story last week of Helen Little, the 79-year-old great-grandmother who was taking part in her 47th mission trip to Haiti when the earthquake hit last Tuesday. She wasn't injured, but she returned to the Triangle last Friday to wait for the situation in the country to stabilize.
The Rotary Clubs of Central North Carolina in District 7710 and Bahamas Habitat, a Christian relief organization, helped organize the flights, and the pilots are donating their aircraft and time to get the supplies to Haiti.
"The pilot talked me into it," co-pilot Jack Faires said. "He called me up (Sunday) and said, 'Hey, are you looking for an adventure?' I said, 'Why not?' We help some people out on the side, so it's a good deal."
More planes loaded with supplies are expected to take off from Johnston County later in the week. They plan to overnight in Nassau, Bahamas, and then fly to rural areas of Haiti – they can land on small airstrips instead of the clogged airport in Port-au-Prince – to deliver relief supplies.
"We'll continue to take supplies in and bring people out," Faires said.
The NCCUMC, which is still collecting donations of relief supplies for Haiti at a Clayton warehouse, 501 Atkinson St., is working on other plans to deliver the aid to the ravaged nation as quickly as possible.