The mission and legacy of the late Rev. Bernard Reiser to serve the needs of the poor people of Haiti continues.
Reiser, the founding pastor of Epiphany Catholic Church, Coon Rapids, established Reiser Relief Inc. in the mid-2000s following a 1996 trip to Haiti.
Through the efforts of Reiser Relief, fresh water is delivered daily to the people of Cite Soleil, described as a slum area outside the Haitian capital of Port au Prince; food packets are delivered from Coon Rapids-based Feed My Starving Children; two primary schools are supported; and an orphanage has been constructed.
In addition, relief efforts have been provided in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
Reiser died in December 2011, but the major fund-raiser in the area that he launched to raise money for the Reiser Relief projects in Haiti continues.
The seventh annual “Keep The Wheel Turning” event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., in The Commons area of Totino Grace High School in Fridley “to provide relief, hope and dignity to the poor, elderly and homeless people of Haiti.”
There will be entertainment, food and wine, a Haitian marketplace and live auction.
Doris Schulte, vice president and longtime board member of Reiser Relief, is chairing the event.
“All proceeds raised at this event will directly benefit the people of Haiti,” said Ann Brau, Reiser’s niece and president of Reiser Relief.
“Doris has done a fabulous job.”
This will be the first year the event has taken place at Totino Grace High School. “ A lot of people come from different parts of the Twin Cities and the school is a good site because it is more central,” Brau said.
The Haitian marketplace will be a first for the “Keep The Wheel Turning” fund-raiser, she said.
Items people have brought back from mission trips to Haiti will be on sale, Brau said.
Entertainment will be provided by the Sherwin Linton Band and Totino Grace Jazz Ensemble.
There is no charge to attend, but donations are tax deductible because Reiser Relief is a 501(c)3 non-profit.
Brau was one three members of Reiser’s family to join the board of Reiser Relief in January 2012.
Joyce Getchell, Brau’s sister and Reiser’s niece, is secretary, and Bernie Maciej, Reiser’s nephew, is also on the board.
“We were invited to the board’s annual meeting and asked to join the board,” Brau said.
It was a surprise, but it is not something Brau would change, she said.
“We have been welcomed by longtime supporters of Father,” Brau said.
Since their election to the board, Brau and Getchell have made two mission trips to Haiti, the first together and the other separately.
“It was a life altering experience for me,” Brau said.
“Haiti is the poorest country in the world, yet the people are so overwhelmingly good, loving and happy.”
Brau described the mission trips to Haiti as “spiritual and emotional.”
They saw the ministries that Reiser started, met the wonderful Haitian people that he worked with and served and gained an understanding of what needed to be dome to continue God’s work in his name, according to Brau.
“We were greeted with undeserved adoration simply because we were ‘Father Reiser’s nieces’,” Brau said.
Reiser’s “legacy of love and care in Haiti surrounded us,” she said.
“We will continue to lead mission trips there to sustain Father’s existing missions and to find new ways to serve the needs of the desperately poor people of Haiti.”
Accomplishments of Reiser Relief in 2012 included supporting the education of 1,000 children in two schools; raising $75,000 to fund the Father Reiser Memorial Elder Care Facility; shipping a 40-foot container of food carrying 270,864 meals; shipping and putting into service a second water truck in Haiti; paying college tuition for a graduate of one of the schools that Reiser Relief supports; delivering over 2,000 toys to two schools, a church, two orphanages and a home for special needs children; donating to Feed My Starving Children; and continuing to provide fresh water to Cite Soleil six days a week year-round.
According to Brau, goals for 2013 with the money that will be raised from the Keep the Wheel Turning fund-raiser are replacing the roof on the Reiser Heights School Community Room and painting some of the classrooms as well as raising an additional $25,000 for and starting work on the Father Reiser Memorial Elder Care Facility to provide dignified end-of-life care to 12 Haitians.
“The roof at the school is leaking badly,” Brau said.
Brau, who lives in Eden Prairie, launched a new fund-raiser in November 2012 at Wayzata Country Club to generate support for Reiser Relief from that part of the metro area and is planning another event there later this year, she said.
The fund-raiser was timed to coincide with the Give to the Max Day Nov. 15 and $48,000 was raised – $23,995 in online donations and over $24,000 in offline donations – for Reiser Relief, Brau said.
Totino Grace High School is located at 1350 Gardena Ave. N.E., Fridley. For more information call 763-280-3433 or go online to www.reiserrelief.org.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]