‘Love Haiti’ basketball tournament kicks off first fundraising event

By NICOLE HENNESSY

AVON – What started as an effort to send Haitian orphans to school expanded to building a store in Mont Rouis, Haiti, that employs four part- and full-time locals selling shoes, clothing and purified water, items that can be hard to come by.

Avon High School graduate Jeramiah Burris, who started the Love Haiti Fund as a high school junior, is now working on building an entire city in Haiti. His organization still serves its original purpose by sending about 100 orphans to school each year.

To help fund these initiatives, Burris – who works multiple jobs, studies at Lorain County Community College and runs Love Haiti – is putting on a fundraising basketball competition July 29 at Schwartz Road Park.

This is the first basketball competition he’s held, though he regularly combines fundraising with community events, like high school basketball games.

As he returns to Haiti to build relationships with local artisans, developers and community members, he also works to improve the lives of at-risk Lorain County students, as well as those from Avon and  Avon Lake, who join him on his trips.

Initially, Burris was introduced to Haiti on a mission with his church. He then took multiple trips to the country before graduating in 2013, at which point he’d already built the bones of the nonprofit he’ll fully develop in the next few years.

To learn how to fund and develop an ambitious nonprofit is his current focus. He’s currently working to build a creative space, which will “give anybody off the street that has a talent and ability to make money through us.” This could range from artists to the welders he’s met through the construction of his store.

Eventually, he’ll need to learn to pay himself and a team – all without taking away from his missions.

“Right now we are focused on business and education and empowering people,” Burris said. “When you walk into our store, you can feel how hard we worked to make it happen, and I really want that feeling to be a part of all the stuff that we do, even this basketball tournament coming up.”

Last summer Burris stayed in Haiti for two months, sleeping on a dirt floor and teaching neighbor children English. His longest trip before that was two weeks.

He’s seen others work on projects meant to empower Haitians, but some fall short, he says.

“Sometimes people lose sight of what they’re trying to do.”

They go there with good intentions, but when something isn’t working, they refuse to change plans.

For Burris, who is still growing his business and planning his future, change is healthy and necessary.

At one point, he was working to send out food to orphanages, “and that started to get messy,” he said, so his team stopped doing that. “We used to do something with motorcycles, and that got messy, so we stopped doing that,” he remembered.

Working with churches, traveling the country and running pop-up shops, Burris can see the path he’ll need to take to become a successful entrepreneur, a year and a half of college still before him.

“It’s getting to the point now where I need to make that jump,” he said of running Love Haiti full time.

For now, he has the luxury of making a few more plans and taking some chances, something he’ll probably continue to do anyway.

With lofty goals of maybe one or two businesses here (in Northeast Ohio) and the rest of his time spent in Haiti, Burris continues to nurture his entrepreneurial spirit, well aware of the students here in his home that he can make an impact on, as well.

“I’m really committed to Northeast Ohio,” he said, mentioning Lorain, in particular, (where he was raised before moving to Avon in high school) and where kids are at risk for exposure to poverty and drugs.

Realizing this is a reality for many in low-income neighborhoods, and also many in upscale communities like Avon and Avon Lake, as far as drugs are concerned, Burris plans to continue creating travel and professional development opportunities for Northeast Ohio students.

As far as Love Haiti is concerned, building a city would seem like a pipe dream for most, but coming from Burris’ mouth, it’s business as usual.

SIDE BAR: The ‘Love Haiti Fund’ basketball tournament is July 29 at Schwartz Road Park, 35001 Schwartz Rd., Avon. The games will be three-on-three. Registration is 9-10 a.m. Fee is $60 per team. The winning team will receive three pairs of Yeezy 350 V2 Boost sneakers. Second place will receive prize packs. The community is encouraged to attend even if not playing. There will be Love Haiti merchandise for sale and food, games and activities courtesy of Church on the North  Coast beginning at noon. All proceeds benefit Love Haiti Fund. For more information, visit lovehaitifund.com or follow the organization at facebook.com/LoveHaitiFund/.

 

 

 

 


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