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February 04, 2010 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-02-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

At The Helm

Hermelin ORT Resource Center
names new director.


Haitians in a tent city line up to receive medical help from volunteers.

fractures, tended to amputees and treated
dozens of young children. Some incapaci-
tated victims were placed in the back of
a flat bed truck. One patient was just 2
days old. Marcus performed surgery on
the baby to properly remove its umbilical
chord. Another child with an eye infection
and severe skin condition had been aban-
doned at an orphanage.
"How could a parent desert their child
like that?" he said. "I cried every single
day. It was a lot of time by yourself, a lot of
thinking and soul searching?'
Another critically ill patient died as
Marcus and other volunteers tried to
rush the woman to the overcrowded and
overwhelmed Haiti general hospital. There
were decomposing bodies stacked every-
where and the group saw mass graves.
"Going through medical school you
smell all kinds of things and you kind of
get used to it:' he said, "but the stench was
just awful. Anytime you saw long strips
of rubble, you knew that was a burial

Right - Hand Man
Marcus did not know anyone in his group
or in Haiti before the trip, but he devel-
oped some special friendships along the
way. In the disaster zone, he bonded with
a Haitian interpreter named Bobby who
became his right-hand man.
"He would not leave my side the whole

trip," Marcus said, getting a little choked
up. "From the minute I got up at 6 a.m., he
was by my side. If I needed fresh water, he
found it. When I needed batteries, we're in
the middle of nowhere and he comes up
with four new batteries. He had my back
the whole trip."
Marcus still talks to Bobby on the phone
every day. He plans to help the 24-year-old
pay for his final year of schooling so he
can complete his education.
Back in Metro Detroit, Marcus contin-
ues to follow the news from Haiti. A new
U.N. voucher system is supposed to stop
fights in food lines where hundreds of
people stand waiting for bags of rice.
The United States resumed medical
evacuation flights this week after a sus-
pension by the military. Marcus has told
and re-told his stories as he tries to fully
absorb everything he experienced.
"It was absolutely remarkable — it was
disaster and it was heartbreak:' he said.
"It was knowing there were still hundreds
of dead people in various buildings we
saw. I don't know how they'll ever recover.
I mean, you can't even get through the
streets to drive, let alone get machinery in
there to take away the rubble.
"If I could tell anybody, if you have any
kind of connection, if you can get down
there, if you can send a donation, do it.
Because they need everything they can.
They really do. It's just terrible." ❑

To donate through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, go to
www.jdc.org/donation or go to the American Red Cross site at
www.redcross.org . For more photos from Marcus' trip, go to www.dr-todd.com .

fter seven years as the
professional director of the
Michigan region of ORT
America, Michelle Passon retired in
2008, thinking she'd finally devote
her energies and passions to pas-
times and favorite causes. Just one
year later, she has agreed to become
chair of the Hermelin ORT Resource
Center, after a personal invitation
from the center's founding chair,
Patti Aaron.
The Hermelin ORT Resource
Center offers free classes to out-of-
work or underemployed individuals
referred there by Michigan Works
and Jewish Vocational Service. Its
empowering classes help individuals
learn skills and find the courage to
seek employment.
"This is the most pro-active orga-
nization in the community to deal
with the economic downturn and
people's suffering because of it,"
Passon says. "I see people walk out
of here with great big smiles. They
tell me how much it means to them
— and I know that it's hard to ask
for help."
Founded in 2003
and named for the
last U.S. Ambassador
David Hermelin,
whose wife, Doreen,
of Bingham Farms
is finishing a term
as president of
ORT America, the
Hermelin ORT Center
offered a record num-
ber of classes in the
"There a lot of obstacles to find-
ing a job," says Shaindle Braunstein-
Cohen, the center's director.
Hermelin ORT students come
from all corners of the region,
representing all communities and
ethnicities. Every students gets a
free fitness club membership to the
Jewish Community Center, child
care, food and transportation, if
needed, as many face food and secu-
rity issues, which make finding a job
even harder.
Passon is eager to lead the center's
development and volunteer out-
reach. She assumed the chairman-
ship Jan. 1. In this two-year position,

Michelle Passon

Passon will build the center's advi-
sory committees and fill its financial
coffers with innovative fundraising
Passon lives in Commerce with
husband Steven. She has two
daughters, Jamie Brooks and Stacie
Passon, and five grandchildren. She
is a member of Temple Israel in
West Bloomfield and a
board member of the
Jewish Gay Network
of Michigan, the
Sinai Guild and ORT
America Michigan
In her career, Passon
served as director for
B'nai B'rith Women,
Michelle Passon
Women's Division of
the Jewish Federation
of Metropolitan Detroit and ORT
Michigan Region. She is a founder of
the Cancer Thrivers Network.
"I have a long list of things to do,"
says Passon. "I want to expand vol-
unteerism, get more people involved
and encourage them to be emissar-
ies about ORT to the community. I
want more people in the door. All of
this is free — we are nurturing the
whole being."
"Here we have an organization
that is a microcosm of what ORT
does all over the world," she said. "It
is a Jewish value to help others. It's
our connection, generation to gen-
eration, and it has been ORT's focus
since its founding in 1880." ❑

"I see people
walk out of
here with great
big smiles."

February 4 a 2010


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