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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Monett help supports Haitian adoption effort

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Workman family, of Neosho, with pilot Andrew Zahn, at center, gathered together after their flight from Miami, Fla., yesterday. Zahn helped bring three new adoptees from Haiti into the Neosho family's household. In the front row, from left, are: adoptees Matthew and Jon. Back row: daughter Gracie, Zahn, adoptee Luke, and Leatta Workman. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]

As the Cessna Conquest II plane set down at the Monett Municipal Airport a little after noon yesterday, a series of unlikely links were completed that helped a Neosho family adopt four children from Haiti. Monett Pilot Andrew Zahn helped Leatta Workman and her biological daughter, Grace, bring three of the four adoptees into the airport terminal on the way to their new home. For the two twins, age 14 months, the whole experience will always remain a blur. Six-year-old Matthew, who has cerebral palsy and does not speak, probably was not absorbing his rapidly changing environment much better.

All three had reached their new home in nearby Neosho, coming through Monett as a gateway.

The Workmans make an unlikely couple for undertaking such a venture. Leatta Workman navigates in a wheelchair and has limited use of one arm due to a birth defect. Her husband, Edward, works as an educator at the high school in Parsons, Kan., and the community college in nearby Labette. Their financial resources appear modest for such an undertaking, especially in light of the six other children in the family, three of whom had been previously adopted from Haiti and one from Ecuador.

Leatta Workman said she relies on faith and believes things happen in "God's time."

The timing of the adoption was not what had been expected. The couple began the process of adopting Matthew in December, 2008. Adopting the previous two children from Haiti, David and Vanessa, had taken 26 months. The opportunity to adopt two additional twins presented itself last fall, but the Workmans did not expect the adoption procedures to be finished until 2012.

The earthquake on Jan. 12 changed everything. Initially it slowed the process. The Workmans' adoption papers were buried in Port-au-Prince. The file had to be reconstructed from copies in Missouri. Then, once everything seemed in order, the Haitian government advanced the timetable to process all the Workmans' requests at once.

Edward Workman did not fly back with the family, Leatta explained, partly as a consequence of the rapid action. She explained there were two children with the same name, "Michenson Pierre," at the orphanage. The child the Workmans were adopting, whom they named Mark, was not the child moved from the orphanage on Monday to Miami, Fla. Edward had to go back for him and the family hoped Edward would arrive with Mark today.

Andrew Zahn fit into the picture in an equally unexpected way. Zahn lives in Monett and flies a corporate jet for a Wichita, Okla., law firm. The plane is based at the Monett airport. Zahn had met Leatta Workman 17 years ago while he was in college, through a mutual friend.

When the Workmans began piecing together arrangements to bring the children to southwest Missouri, they looked for a private flight that would be faster than a commercial trip because of Matthew's illness. Leatta did an internet search for a possible pilot in the area, and Zahn's named came up.

"I know him," she said, and made the contact.

At Zahn's request, attorney Brad Pistotnik allowed use of the company plane for the trip and provided some of the fuel. The City of Monett agreed to sell fuel at cost, and the congregation at the First United Methodist Church in Monett, Zahn's home church, donated additional funds to cover the balance.

The flight developed on a fluid timetable. Plans finally came together four hours before the family would leave. While that might have killed other arrangements, Zahn was ready to go.

So much change for the children in the next few weeks, Leatta said. The children had been living in a 20-by-20 foot room and now would have typical Missouri bedrooms and one roommate.

The four children, who are being named Matthew, Mark, Luke and Jon, would get additional support from the Workmans' church, Second Baptist in Neosho, which has backed the family's efforts.

Leatta Workman said families considering adopting Haitian children should not rush into the experience.

"If you think it's something you really want to do, make sure God's in it," she said. "You'll find you have gears you never knew you had."

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