East Texas has pulled together to support the people of Haiti when they need it most. Even in tough economic times, local residents and organizations are raising money and volunteering their time. On Jan. 12, a catastrophic earthquake registering a 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale rocked Haiti. Government officials are saying the death toll from this earthquake alone may easily surpass 150,000. Many people remain trapped or missing beneath rubble of collapsed buildings, leaving family and friends distraught. Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, was demolished in this natural disaster. Violent aftershocks have also complicated relief efforts.There are several organizations in the Tyler community that are reaching out and helping the Haitians in their time of need. One of the main organizations is Mercy Ships, headquartered in Garden Valley just north of Tyler. “We are doing all that we can to raise money to ease the struggles in Haiti,” said Kathy Gohmert of U.S. Public Relations for Mercy Ships. “Although our rescue ship is planning to head to West Africa to help sub-Saharan countries develop a stable health system, we were still able to deploy a mobilized disaster response team to Haiti. This team is made up of volunteers who will address specific needs in relation to medical and nonmedical issues.”Another agency aiding Haiti in their time of need is the American Red Cross.”The main focus right now is raising money for the international response fund,” said Linda Edwards, the director of volunteer services for the Red Cross in Tyler. “We have currently been able to raise $58 million dollars for this fund. Sixty percent of these funds were raised online or via text message.” The Red Cross hospital ship USNS Comfort was scheduled to leave its home port in Baltimore on Jan. 23, and hoped to arrive in Haiti by Jan. 28. The USNS Comfort will be administrating medical services aboard. This ship is about three football fields long and about one football field wide with approximately 250 hospital beds along with a medical team of 550 staff members. This team consists of trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, eye surgeons, and head and neck surgeons. Haiti is one of the most indigent and least developed countries in the world, and by far the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere, where four out of five residents live in poverty. Haiti has suffered from political turmoil to health crises to major hurricanes. In 2008, an estimated 800 Haitians died from hurricanes alone. Right now it is almost impossible to land a plane or even attempt to drive a car in Haiti due to its condition. “We are currently on stand-by, gathering as much food and materials as possible, waiting for some of the chaos to settle down so that our rescue team can go in and assist any way possible,” said Andrew Jennings of the local Nation Guard.Organizations across East Texas are going above and beyond to help support Haiti during its struggles. The Black Student Association of Tyler Junior College just recently hosted a dance to help raise funds for Haiti relief. The Dance was held for all Tyler Junior College and University of Texas at Tyler students. TJC charged one dollar per person to come to this dance, and was able to make just under $400 dollars in a couple of hours.Any donation to the Haitian relief can be made through www.smithcounty.redcross.org or www.mercyships.org. You can also text message the word “Haiti” to 90999 and a $10 donation will be added to your phone bill.