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Haiti mission trips among work for volunteer

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By Robert Villanueva

Lois Shinkle’s resolve to help others is stronger than the emotions that overwhelmed her the first time a baby died in her arms.

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It’s stronger than the intensity of heartache she felt seeing lifeless infants dressed in white smocks with red crosses on them who were placed in cardboard boxes because coffins weren’t available.

Earlier this year, the Elizabethtown woman returned from her 16th trip to Haiti, where she volunteers at Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity’s children’s facility to care for sick and dying children. The children are in need of care because of malnutrition, illness, dehydration and various ailments.

The first time a baby died in her arms, Shinkle found a private place and cried, she said.

“That quick it came to me: ‘Lois, get a grip. Those other babies, children need you to be strong,’” Shinkle said. “I went straight back in and got to work.”

Through the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas, St. James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown was paired with St. Marc Parish in St. Marc, Haiti. The children’s facility is in Port Au Prince, which is about 50 miles south of St. Marc.

Since her first trip to Haiti from December 1994-January 1995, Shinkle knew she had to return.

Though experiences in Haiti have included heart-wrenching times, Shinkle has seen good things happen. One such case was a child who was a year and a few months old who appeared to be about 9 months old because of malnutrition.

Shinkle asked if she could try to get the child to eat and eventually succeeded. The child got better and later was adopted.

Over the years, a few things have changed in Haiti. Infants who die at the facility at which Shinkle volunteers now have wooden coffins in which to be placed, and infant death rates went down from about seven a week to about two or three in three weeks.

Even before she began volunteering in Haiti, Shinkle served in Elizabethtown through St. James Catholic Church. Among other things, for 35 years she has taken communion to those in nursing homes and the homebound.

“My focus has always been on the children and the elderly,” Shinkle said.

Additionally, Shinkle is a longtime member of St. James Covenant Committee, which celebrates common beliefs between churches and works toward greater understanding and building bridges where there are differences.

Bridges aren’t the only things she’s helped build. She has worked for Hardin County Habitat for Humanity.

“I built houses until my body couldn’t do it anymore,” Shinkle said.

Joining the Elizabethtown Lions Club in 1993, Shinkle became the club’s first female president in 1999. Eye conservation is the organization’s primary goal, and Shinkle performs eye screenings in August each year at the Kentucky State Fair with fellow lions.

Being chairwoman of the Elizabethtown Lions Club, she said, is her biggest role with the organization now. She expressed Lions’ pride in the club that supports 33 Hardin County organizations.

In June, Shinkle was awarded the Lion of the Year award for the second time.

“We Lions treasure this because it’s a vote by your peers,” she said.

Shinkle said her husband is a Lion, as was her father.

About the time she joined the club, she was the same age her father was when he died. Shinkle felt as if she was taking his place, she said.

“I could hear him saying, ‘Carry on, girl,’” she said.

Ron and Ann Kowalkoski, who have known Shinkle for about 30 years, mostly through Lions Club and community activities, lauded her “love and compassion for others.”

“Lois’ Christian faith is evident in all she does,” Ann said. “It’s truly beautiful to see her faith in action.”

Shinkle said her husband, Bill, deserves credit for his support, and he often tells her of her special association with her faith.

“Bill says God’s my buddy,” she said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thnewsenterprise.com.

More about Lois Shinkle

  • City of birth: Cincinnati
  • Favorite music: Soft classical
  • Favorite movie: “Gandhi”
  • Favorite TV shows: “CBS Sunday Morning” and cooking programs
  • Hobbies: Raising herbs, which she harvests in the fall and shares with others

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