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Church sends aid to refugees from Kosovo

May 14, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

When refugees from Kosovo receive buckets of soap, detergent and other supplies in a few weeks, they can thank strangers from a faraway place they may never have heard of - Hagerstown.

About 25 members of Hebron Mennonite Church north of town joined the international relief effort on Friday. Volunteers packed white buckets with supplies bound for refugee camps in Albania.

"When you see all of the publicity on the TV about what's going on over there, I feel overwhelmed," said Jean Peifer, one of the volunteers. "We're halfway around the world and we care."

Peifer, who lives on Marsh Pike, said the church took collections during Sunday services for the aide effort and members bought items at area stores. Stores like Kmart and Wal-Mart offered discounts, she said.

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The Hagerstown church is part of a national effort spearheaded by the Mennonite Central Committee, which was founded in 1920 and performs charitable works all over the world.

Leo Martin, a member of the church who is also on the committee's board, said the organization began with a goal of shipping 30,000 buckets of supplies. He said the actual number will probably be between 40,000 and 50,000.

"The response has been really tremendous," he said.

A truck sat outside the church on Friday waiting to be loaded with buckets. Martin said the truck picked up 100 buckets from Cedar Grove Mennonite Church in Greencastle, Pa., on Thursday and plans to pick up 200 from Salem Ridge Mennonite Church in State Line, Pa., today.

The buckets, which contain items that relief workers in Albania said were most in need, are probably worth about $40 retail. Martin estimated donations and discounts from area businesses have reduced the cost per bucket to about $25.

The supplies include toothbrushes, shampoo, gauze pads and bath towels.

"It's the very basic things we all take for granted," he said.

Even the container can help, Martin said. Rather than ship the items in boxes, he said the organization chose buckets, which can be used to sit on or haul water.

"A container like this is quite valuable," he said.

Although organized by the Mennonites, Martin said other churches and individuals have helped.

Martha Stoner, who lives on Summit Avenue in Hagerstown, said she does not belong to the church but saw an ad in the newspaper and wanted to help.

"I bought some of everything," she said.

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