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T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News
Lycha Andrews, left, a Utah Valley University students from Madison, Conn., tries to help Wilda Jean Baptista of Provo reach family members in Haiti as UVU students and local community members gather to discuss possible avenues to aid earthquake victims in Haiti and to support the local Haitian community at the UVU Sorenson Student Center in Orem Thursday. Baptista's husband and much of her family live in Haiti and she has not been able to reach them or learn any news of their health.

OREM — As organizations and individuals focus on Haiti, Utah Valley University and BYU have turned to the community.

Members of the Haitian and black communities gathered at UVU on Wednesday night to brainstorm ways to help loved ones in Utah and in Haiti, after a devastating earthquake hit that nation Tuesday.

"The fundraising is great, but we need to focus on the people in Utah," said Chris Bernard, president of UVU's Black Student Union. Bernard and many others at the meeting have family members they can't track down in Haiti.

But finding the appropriate outlet for their support takes time. The Black Student Union is considering donations to organizations such as the Red Cross, or using another organization to hold the money for long-term aid.

"We need to be united together," said Leo Montes, a BYU alumnus and Haitian native. "We can have money, we need money, but when we rely on each other, we're stronger."

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For now, BYU's and UVU's black student unions are working with the Black Advisory Council to provide peace of mind to local residents searching for loved ones.

"We need to be able to support each other here as a small community," said Mike Petrus, a UVU student.

The UVU student government provided 50 donation jars to place throughout Orem and Provo, where anyone can donate pocket change for relief efforts in Haiti. Also, the university will hold a "Wolverine Wednesday" on Jan. 20 at noon. Students may purchase lunch and have some of the proceeds help Haiti.

e-mail: eteichert@desnews.com