A Haitian-born Fargo barbershop owner who lost at least four relatives in last week's earthquake and has many more still missing is donating today's business profits to help relief efforts in his home country.
The "Haircuts for Haiti" fundraiser is all day beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Skill Cutz Barber Shop, 2594 Main Ave.
Calypso Hair salon, 2119 13th Ave. S. in Fargo, also will donate its profits today toward relief efforts. Duane and Polly Keller, the owners of Brite-Way Window Cleaning, Inc., in Fargo, are matching up to $1,000 of the business' donations.
Skill Cutz owner Will Dort was born in Haiti and knows firsthand from his childhood years what life is like in the impoverished Caribbean nation, which he hears from relatives there is now in "chaos" following the cataclysmic quake.
Dort's father and his elder brothers came to the United States in 1994, and his father found work for $5 an hour at the former Federal Beef plant in West Fargo, Dort said.
By 1997, his father was able to bring the rest of his family over: the 12-year-old Dort, his mother, his other brother and his two sisters.
Dort, now 24, recalls his family didn't have much during his youth in Haiti.
"As a kid, everyone was saying how tough a time it was over there," Dort said. "Now when I talk to my family back home, they're like, 'Oh man, that was the good times back then.' It's tough hearing that."
Dort's half-brother and his mother's family still live in Haiti, and he knows of at least four relatives that were among the thousands who perished in the quake. His half-brother is OK, but Dort said there are many relatives still unaccounted for.
"No word or no call," he said. "There's so many people and we don't know exactly where they are at."
Dort said he appreciates the blessings of his life in America when compared to his younger years in Haiti, and said he wants to honor his father -- who died from cancer nine years ago -- by helping other Haitians who need assistance.
"I know a lot of people back home, their hopes and dreams are on us here," Dort said. "I just don't want to let them down. I'm trying to do what I can."
In the coming weeks, Dort said he wants to do a clothing drive to help Haiti and take a trip there within the next couple months.
Duane Keller, who is matching up to $1,000 of the donations made today at Skill Cutz and Calypso, challenged other businesses to match dollars, too, and encouraged area residents to help however they can.
Keller has sent donations to Haiti for several years so improved dwellings can be built and took a mission trip there in December 2003.
He described his visit as "surreal" and an "eye-opening experience." He saw beggars in the streets and children left at orphanage gates because their families didn't have the money or resources to care for them.
"Some of the things were so sobering," Keller said. "Once this earthquake hit, I felt I needed to respond in some way. We'll never solve the problem right now, but we need to show that we care. ... Our world needs to be bigger than ourselves."
Kristen M. Daum is a writer for The Forum, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.