By ROBIN CAUDELL Press Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Tom LaBombard set the example for his daughter, Nicole Groleau, to help the poor in Nicaragua through North Country Mission of Hope.
“He went three years ago for his first trip, and I went with him the last two years,” said Groleau, who lives in Waterford and is a respiratory therapist at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center.
Her dad lives in Keeseville.
“I’m hoping we will both go back this year,” she said. “I always wanted to do this. I always wanted to go on a trip like this. I lived in Plattsburgh so long and didn’t realize that was happening right there.
“He told me he was going. I said I wanted to go. It was too late for me to sign up, so I had to wait until the following year.”
Mission of Hope, founded and based in Plattsburgh, has accomplished more than 50 missions of “hearts and hands working together to improve lives” in Nicaragua, as its mission statement says.
This year marks the group’s 15th anniversary.
The commemoration kicks off today with Prayers for Plattsburgh, an interfaith prayer vigil for Plattsburgh and the North Country, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Macdonough Monument.
Attendees are invited to bring a food-bank donation, any new household/toiletry item, diapers or used cellphones to be donated to the Interfaith Food Shelf, the Salvation Army or STOP Domestic Violence in Plattsburgh.
CHANGES THERE AND HERE
In Nicaragua, the tasks LaBombard, Groleau and, over the years, hundreds of other volunteers have done include building home shelters for the poor and improving hospitals, orphanages and a disability center.
“We did all kinds of stuff,” Groleau said of her own experiences. “We did some medical exams for some of the nuns, basically blood pressure and listen to their lungs. A lot of them had respiratory problems. I talked to them about different breathing techniques they could do.”
She especially liked delivering rice and beans all over the barrios because of the interaction with the children and adults.
“It’s a really amazing experience,” Groleau said.
The young people who volunteer in Nicaragua, she said, “change from the beginning of the week to the end of the week. “Everyone is crying.
“It’s just so eye-opening. They come home and choose to do things, then go out and help people. This one little thing changes the world, down there and here. This is something that is going to change you from the inside.”
HELP AT HOME
Mission Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow credits Groleau with the idea for the vigil.
“After the last mission in February, she said, ‘Sister, you keep saying we’re always being mindful of what the North Country does for us. What if we did a prayer vigil in Plattsburgh as a way of kicking off our 15th year of the mission and, in a sense, thanking and giving back?’”
The idea morphed into something larger as they talked it over — an opportunity for those attending the vigil to help at home by bringing donations for food shelves, STOP Domestic Violence or the Salvation Army.
“We wanted to do something that demonstrated something that a lot of people don’t realize — our volunteers and supporters are very involved in lots of volunteer projects in helping the North Country in a number of ways,” Blow said.
Blow and Groleau focused on areas of the North Country with project connections to the people they serve in Nicaragua.
“For example, feeding the hungry, caring for the children who are the victims of domestic violence,” Blow said.
All are welcome to attend the vigil, she said, to give “support for the local community and the global community.”
The Mission of Hope is a spiritually based, humanitarian-aid organization.
“We wanted our prayer vigil to reflect that reality,” Blow said. “We’re committed to fostering hope and empowering relationships. We want to have this prayer vigil to be something inclusive of all walks of spirituality and respectful of that.”
“We want to make sure everyone is welcome, regardless of faith,” Groleau said. “If they want to come and pray or be prayed for, everyone is welcome for whatever they want to be there for.”
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.orgIF YOU GO WHAT: Prayers for Plattsburgh, a prayer vigil sponsored by the North Country Mission of Hope. WHEN: 7 to 9 tonight. WHERE: Macdonough Monument, City Hall Place, downtown Plattsburgh. WEBSITE: www.missionofhope.org. SUGGESTED DONATIONS STOP Domestic Violence/Behavorial Health Services North needs: $15 gas cards from Stewart's, toilet paper, laundry detergent, larger-size diapers, nonperishable foods (especially coffee), used cell phones in any condition. Interfaith Food Shelf needs: cereals, canned tuna, soup and vegetables, peanut butter. Salvation Army needs: cereal, boxed side dishes, canned soup and tuna, condiments.