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L.A. Haitians gather at Echo Park restaurant for answers, to mourn

January 15, 2010 |  7:13 am

A crowd of Haitians came together at a popular Echo Park restaurant Thursday night to raise money for the earthquake relief effort and to plan for the recovery of their native country.

George Laguerre, owner of Tigeorges’ Chicken, said he organized the gathering so expatriates would have a place where they could support one another and relatives back in Haiti.

Wearing his chef’s jacket, Laguerre made his way through the small, colorful restaurant, greeting friends and helping coordinate donations.

All of the contributions would go to the Yele Haiti Foundation, he said. “There is a real need to bring Haitians together,” Laguerre said. “Haiti is in desperate need of help.”

A line of customers reached out the door and television trucks lined Glendale Boulevard in front of the restaurant. One woman passed around pastries and another wrote down names of people wanting to help. Several people ate plates of chicken and rice and drank cans of soda.

Clelie Voltaire, 41, of Inglewood said she hadn’t been able to reach her relatives in Haiti since the earthquake hit and was worried that they may not have survived.

“I called and called and nobody answered,” she said.

Dan Ielcharlier, 43, of Corona said that his aunts and uncles in Haiti were uninjured but that their homes were destroyed.

The images of the country are shocking, he said. “It’s just really emotional,” Ielcharlier said. “The country already has no hope. It’s really, really sad.”

On the other hand, Ielcharlier said, “it brings a lot of attention to our country.”

Rapper Won-G, who is from Haiti, said he came to the restaurant to offer his support.

Earthquakes in other countries had touched him, but, he said, “when it’s knocking on your door, it’s different.”

-- Anna Gorman in Echo Park