Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Raffle Puts Fun In Haitian Fundraiser

By Ann M Ennis
Dennis DG Gehrenbacher

When is a road not a road?  When it is in Haiti. 

A road that is more like a gully, while standard for Haitian thoroughfares, is not good for any vehicle.  Trucks and SUVs wear out under the strain, as do many Haitians – where life expectancy is less than 64 years. Flooding, lack of public works and corruption take tolls on man and car alike.

The late Dennis “DG” Fehrenbacher reacted to these struggles with hard work.  As a supporter of St. Joseph-Vanderburgh County’s Haitian Twinning Program Ministry for more than 20 years, DG’s travels to Haiti brought out the work in him.

Work can be fun, too. The tall, bearded jokester with a quick wit and dozens of rare talents put the fun into every charitable effort. Whether calling the Big Wheel at the parish social or organizing special-needs children’s activities at the Westside Nut Club Fall Festival, his eyes sparkled while he worked.

DG traveled many times to Haiti, striking up friendships with members and leaders of St. James the Greater Parish in Plaine du Nord. His experience on Haiti roads included flat tires, bent axles, broken jacks and seriously bumped heads.

Recognizing the toll these roads take on vehicles, he knew the 10-year-old St. James Parish truck was on a short thread.  In 2016, DG planned an elaborate raffle to purchase a replacement vehicle for the northern Haitian parish. 

He assembled a roster of prizes – the grandest being a gleaming 2012 white BMW Z4 he donated himself.  DG convinced family and friends to donate additional major prizes.  With preliminary work complete, just as the raffle was to open sales, DG died suddenly last spring.

Nothing stops a good idea for the 12-person Haiti Outreach Committee at St. Joseph-Vanderburgh County. Teamwork and lingering DG energy meant that less than one month after DG’s death, posters were printed and tickets numbered, and sales began.

“The drawing will be held on October 8, (2017),” said Bob Fehrenbacher, DG’s younger brother. “We are following his lead and vision in running the raffle.  He is still guiding the process – and having a laugh at my discomfort in being out front, too, I am sure.”

DG always was motivational.   

“There are people who watch things happen, and there are people who make things happen,” said Bob.  “Dennis made things happen.”

Bob continued, “He had a sense of fairness and if he thought things were unfair, he didn’t like that at all.  Dennis thought a lot of life in Haiti was unfair.  The raffle was a small way to bring a bit of fair-play to the Haitian people.”