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The Missoula-born Balkans Relief Effort has attracted four doctors, eight nurses, about 40 volunteers, nearly $6,000 and the support of western Montana's Catholic churches.

Organizer Brian Pasalich needs more help.

"It's kind of snowballing, to say the least," he said Tuesday. "I'm getting a little overwhelmed."

Pasalich, who works as a paramedic for St. Patrick Hospital and is heading the effort to send medial help to war-torn Yugoslavia, hopes a Wednesday night meeting will attract volunteers to work at home and abroad. People with fund-raising ideas and organizing abilities are needed, he said.

The effort to help people in the Balkans is modeled on a similar volunteer operation to Honduras last November. The devastation left by Hurricane Mitch inspired a group of Missoula medical professionals at Nightingale Nursing home health agency to form Missoula Medical Aid, which sent teams to Honduras.

The first team sent to the Balkans will go to work near Tirana, Albania. The five people will leave July 10 to 12 and spend three weeks providing health care to people in camps.

"In Albania, as of today, there were 442,400 refugees," Pasalich said Tuesday. "And that's in a state that's probably the size of Vermont. I mean, it's packed."

Macedonia holds 249,300 refugees and Montenegro, a province of Yugoslavia, has 67,600, according to the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

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"We're looking at just continuing our teams of five into Albania as long as we can," Pasalich said.

The Balkans Relief Effort recently earned the support of the Catholic Community Action Group, an organization of Catholic churches in western Montana. When Pasalich spoke at St. Anthony's church recently, an offering raised $1,600. He's scheduled to speak at Christ the King on June 16.

The University of Montana School of Pharmacy is stockpiling medication and supplies by working with pharmaceutical companies. A community group is putting together a benefit spaghetti dinner.

Planning meeting

Missoula Medical Aid's Balkans Relief Effort will hold an informational and planning meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Conference Room C at St. Patrick Hospital. Use the main hospital entrance, take the elevator to the first floor and turn right.

On June 16 at 7 p.m. at Christ the King Church, Brian Pasalich will speak about the history of Kosovo and Yugoslavia and Missoula Medical Aid. The public is welcome.

Wednesday - 6/2/99

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