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Feb. 15, 2017

By Suzanne Moore
Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH —  Dominican Sister Debbie Blow lives hope every waking moment.Mission of Hope

But the woman who leads the Plattsburgh-based group that brings that intangible yet priceless commodity to the poor in Nicaragua is running a bit short of it at present.

North Country Mission of Hope must vacate its present warehouse facility no later than March 20, and, as of Feb. 10, had no firm prospects for another one.

“Hope is who we are — I keep reminding myself of that,” Sister Debbie said.

And she reminds herself that locals' generosity has proven itself many times over the past 19 years.
Since the mission group's very beginnings, people have stepped up when apprised of need - whether donating clothing, medications, cash gifts for emergency medical needs of Nicaraguans in need.

They come with pickup trucks to move hospital beds, with muscles to load shipping containers, smarts to handle bookkeeping, contents of entire medical and dental offices.

And five times already, property owners in the Plattsburgh area have provided warehouse space that, at each location has been dubbed MOHtown. There, donated equipment and goods are stored and volunteers organize them for shipment.

Considering that history, the Mission of Leadership Team decided it's time to put down roots.

The word is out — Mission of Hope would welcome donation in the Plattsburgh area of a warehouse-type facility of between 4,000- and 6,000-square feet with an overhead door and, ideally, a dock, as 40-foot shipping containers would need to be loaded there.

Or perhaps a mission supporter might donate an acre or two of land where a building could be erected.

But with time running short, the pressing need is temporary space with cold-storage and also a small heated area where volunteers can prepare goods to hit the road.

Meanwhile, Mission of Hope has been readying for departure from the Schuyler Falls facility it has called MOHtown for the past two years.

A planned shipment was moved up, and some 20,000 pounds of equipment and goods were sent on their way.
But much remains, including a number of hospital beds, lots of school supplies and other items donated to the group.

Sister Debbie is well aware that some things come to them that would otherwise be filling up landfills.
“One person's trash is another's lifeline,” she said.

Often, donors have lost loved ones and bring walkers, wheelchairs and other such items to the warehouse.
There's healing when those people realize the equipment will help others, Sister Debbie said.

And MOHtown is a North Country resource, she added, after fires, floods and other disasters strike and victims need clothing and other necessities.

To lease or outright purchase a facility is not an option, Sister Debbie said, as the nonprofit can't afford to do so.

The group's money needs to go toward a long-term solution, she said. But Mission of Hope would consider an arrangement that would include a partial donation combined with a financial agreement, she said.

Sister Debbie reminds herself of past touch-and-go situations weathered by the mission.

Winter storms have often wreaked havoc with travel to Nicaragua for its February mission, but frantic effort on the phone and last-second adjustments saved the day.

And with each warehouse move, there has been some little miracle as someone always stepped up to donate a new space.

There was little notice when the group had to leave its Plattsburgh storage building two years ago — frozen pipes meant the building was condemned, so there was absolutely no choice.

That made it essential that three shipments head out to Nicaragua earlier than expected — at a cost of $10,000 each.

Once again, a supporter stepped up.

From California, North Country native Sheila Scully gave a $30,000 gift that got that task accomplished.
And then, just three days before the March 31 deadline, Henry Jarvis offered his building in Schuyler falls.
“Talk about the power of prayer,” Sister Debbie said then.

And of course many, many prayers have been sent heavenward this time, too.

“I believe we will have an answer to our plea and our prayers,” Sister Debbie said.

And she really does. She has faith that the North Country will come through once again.

But she worries, too.

She laughed, adding, “OK, God. I'm human.”

Sister Debbie may be reached at (518) 570-5443 about providing short-term or long-term warehouse facilities for the Mission of Hope.

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