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Haiti school to be built in honor of the late Rob Marchand

More than two years after his death, a Mitchell man's legacy of caring will carry on in a downtrodden country thousands of miles away. LaGonave Alive is a Tea, South Dakota-based nonprofit focused on providing necessities to schools, women, child...

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A photo of the LaGonave Alive proposed building. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Blumer)

More than two years after his death, a Mitchell man’s legacy of caring will carry on in a downtrodden country thousands of miles away.

LaGonave Alive is a Tea, South Dakota-based nonprofit focused on providing necessities to schools, women, children and the elderly, as well as health care in the country of Haiti. It began asking for donations this week in an effort to raise funds to build a school in its organization’s namesake country of LaGonave, Haiti, according to co-founder Bruce Blumer.

The school will be named in honor of Mitchell native Rob Marchand, 21-year director of the Mitchell Recreation Center and Mitchell High School girls golf coach. Marchand died in August 2014 after a battle with prostate cancer.

Marchand’s love for people earned him the naming rights for the soon-to-be school, Blumer said Thursday.

Though based in Tea, LaGonave Alive was created after the original Haiti outreach program through Mitchell First United Methodist Church began to grow beyond the group’s abilities.

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The ministry originally began after a massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, leveled Port-au-Prince, where a team of First United missionaries was serving.

Blumer is a Mitchell native, and he is the former executive director of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation. He and his wife recently moved to Tea.

LaGonave Alive has already purchased the land the school will sit on and a team of 10 people is expected to travel to the country for 10 days beginning Jan. 28 to begin laying the foundation for the future elementary school.

The school, slated to open in September, will start small, serving just three or four grade levels, Blumer said. But, as funds flow in and support grows, so will the school. Blumer estimates it will cost approximately $30,000 to complete the project.

“As we get more funds, we’ll continue to add and eventually we’ll hopefully add a second level for a lunch area and administration area,” Blumer said. “The ultimate goal is to become a place to have a school and have a safe place for kids to learn.”

The idea for a school surfaced in July 2016, when Blumer began looking at LaGonave Alive’s budgets. In doing so, he found the group was donating between 25 and 35 scholarships to Haiti students each year and sending school supplies to more than 2,000 kids, so Blumer thought it may be more cost-effective to build a school instead.

He contacted officials in LaGonave and together they determined what it would cost to start a school in the country. And officials greeted Blumer with a pleasant surprise.

“They told me if we can get the money to get it built, they can figure out the yearly operational costs,” Blumer said. “Then that land became available in a convenient location along the main road in the largest city, which is huge because those people don’t really have access to a school otherwise.”

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In total, the school will be able to house up to 25 students in each grade, with the potential to reach up to 200 kids each year.

And for Blumer, who has seen the impact of his missionary throughout the past half-decade, the greatest satisfaction will come from seeing his friend’s name painted across the building that will benefit hundreds for years to come.

“Rob was my best friend,” Blumer said. “He was a great guy so it’s really been an honor for me … It was very heartwarming and it’s a great way for us to honor his legacy.”

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