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Vacation turns into volunteering for local family

Hailey Martin holds Ana, 4, as she flosses her teeth. Ana is one of the orphans in a Dominican Republic orphanage that received donations from Martin's family and friends. Contributed photo1 / 2
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On a trip to the Dominican Republic several years ago, Hailey Martin discovered the joy of giving. A longtime friend of the family, Dave Johnson, has visited the Dominican Republic for over 20 years and arranged a local tour.

Martin and family members left the resort they were staying at to see how the locals lived.

"They are happy even though they don't have much," Martin said. She explained that some locals live in tin homes and do not have running water, so they use a community well.

She was inspired to share a few belongings she brought with on her vacation.

"When I gave a girl my nail polish, she started to cry," Martin said.

When Martin got back home, she discussed with her aunt and uncle, Kim and John Lind of Cloquet, a donation drive to distribute on another visit to the Dominican Republic. After much discussion, Martin decided it was time for action.

"I told them about two weeks ago to just book it," Martin said.

The two weeks brought a flurry of activity. Martin's friend, Makayla Langenbrunner, accompanied the family for this trip.

Donations poured in. Martin and Langenbrunner spent many hours sorting and packing the donations into 10 suitcases and duffel bags. She carefully weighed each one to be sure it met the weight limit of the airlines.

"They have to be under 50 pounds," Kim explained. Each bag weighed exactly 49.5 pounds.

They paid an extra $160 for checked baggage fees. There were more offers of donations, but Kim declined due to the extra fees included.

Community members were generous. Two dentists donated over 100 dental kits and a friend of Kims donated 150 lip balm and nail files.

Johnson arranged for the Linds to visit a three-room schoolhouse with 72 students Friday and an all-girls orphanage home to infants up to 18-year-olds Saturday. He also arranged for them to take 10 families grocery shopping. The families were each given $50 to buy food and necessities.

Many donations came through the efforts of Martin's younger sister, Brynn, in the form of a school fundraiser at Cloquet Middle School. Teacher Carolyn Kedrowski's class donated the most with 867 items and also won doughnuts for their efforts.

"They brought in soap, toothbrushes, school supplies," Lind said.

The group left Feb. 14 and returned Feb. 18. Martin enjoyed sharing the donations with the Dominican children.

"At the orphanage, they all ran to the car and gave us hugs," Martin said. "The only way the girls can leave the orphanage at the age of 18 is if they have a place to stay and a job."

The kids at the school and at the orphanage enjoyed the special treat of pizza, provided by the Linds.

"The kids at the school loved the pizza," Martin said. "The girls at the orphanage went crazy over the clothes and the hygiene products."

The families were able to purchase many staples with the $50 provided by donations. They bought vegetables, meats and plenty of rice and oil because they eat it with every meal, Martin said. The families ranged in size from five to seven members.

The Linds are amazed and grateful for the donations they were able to share while at the Dominican Republic.

"People have been so generous," Lind said.