MEXICO — At age 79, Orella Poirier of Howard Street remains passionate in her ongoing effort to help the children of Haiti.

“I enjoy doing it. I wake up every day thinking about what’s next. I’ve got a purpose in life. It keeps me motivated and keeps me out of trouble,” she said with a laugh.

Besides collecting donated money and materials, Poirier is spearheading a drive to collect 200 pairs of flip-flops for children ages 3-16. At last count, she was at 105 pairs. Poirier has searched for bargains, finding them for $1 and $2 a pair.

“It’s all wet there,” she said. “With the flip-flops, they can wear them as protection for their feet.”

Poirier does donation work for two missions in Haiti: Mother Theresa’s Mission for monetary donations and the Sisters of the Holy Cross Mission.

She has gathered thousands of much-needed items and thousands of dollars over the years that were sent to the nuns working with the poor in Haiti.

Poirier does much of this by herself, but she noted, “People help me, friends, and I just got a hundred dollar donation from the Daughters of Isabella. I went and told them what I was up to and asked if they could help me.”

Poirier showed canceled checks from 2009 through 2014 totaling more than $10,000 that she’s collected in cash donations to give to the missions.

She said those donations come from parishioners, friends and strangers. “One lady just moved away, but two months ago, she mailed me $2,000. She believes in it and this was something she really want to do.”

Beginning in 2000, Poirier had worked collecting donations with Ray Seabeck and his wife in Rochester, N.H., until they had to stop because of illness in 2009.

“So from 2009 to now, all I can collect is monetary, just monies. That’s going to Haiti to Mother Theresa’s Missions,” she said, adding that she’ll be giving to the Haiti Mission called Porte Du Ciel (Doors of Heaven).

She said she also started working three years ago with Rita Laurian for her Haiti donations.

During Mexico’s 2010 Night of Appreciation, Poirier was presented with a legislative sentiment in appreciation of her years of helping the poor of Haiti through nuns serving on the island. The award was given by then state Rep. Sheryl Briggs of Mexico. A second sentiment was to recognize Poirier for her many years of what Briggs described as following the example of Mother Theresa.

“Mother Theresa, to me, was a big inspiration,” Poirier said. “It really encouraged me because I always wanted to give people something. When my kids were younger and my husband was living, we would collect old toys and we’d bring them to Henry DeRoche, who was with the Legion and ran a gas station in Dixfield. We bring down all these broken bikes and sleds, and they take pieces from this and that and do things for kids at Christmas.” 

Poirier has never been to Haiti and does not want to go. “The Seabecks did this for 33 years. And they went to Haiti. They’d go for 10 days to two weeks, and to leave those children was horrid because they’d hold onto her and want to go with her, and it was heartbreaking.”

People who want to donate can leave a message for Poirier at 364-3816. “They can call and make arrangements for pickup,” she said.

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