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Plans for relief center taking shape

April 03, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Relief kits including everything from meat canned and quilts hand made in Franklin County, Pa., will soon find their way to countries in need around the world.

Glenn Showalter expects that within a year the Cumberland Valley Relief Center will be up and running south of Chambersburg.

The center will be an independent satellite operation of the Mennonite Central Committee, which provides hunger relief and material aid to foreign countries through the efforts of Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and other Anabaptist churches in North America.

Showalter said more than 75 churches in the Cumberland Valley will contribute to the relief center.

He said churches of all denominations may contribute supplies and money to the project.

"I see it as an opportunity to expand the visibility of the need for helping refugees and disaster victims around the world," said Showalter, vice president of the relief center's executive committee.

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He said about 12 years ago he saw a center similar to that being planned for Franklin County in the small community of Hinton, Va.

"When I saw that I thought 'that's what Franklin and Washington counties need.' But I thought it was an overwhelming project for our little district," he said.

Two years ago, planning for the local facility got off the ground, and now the committee is waiting only for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to approve its permits so it can break ground on three acres at 4241 Molly Pitcher Highway, north of the Marion Mennonite Church.

Showalter is hopeful the 60-by-132-foot building will be up within the year. Once the foundation is in, the board will hold a "relief center raising" where volunteers will build the entire structure in just a few days of hard work.

"We will hopefully raise it from slab to roof in three days," he said.

Ultimately, Showalter said the project will include an office building that might house offices for Mennonite Mutual Aid and Mennonite Federal Credit Union.

Showalter said the community has been involved in meat canning for the Mennonite Central Committee for decades, but "we felt we needed to take things a step further and have a place for people to come together and make quilts and assemble kits of various kinds."

Last month, more than 150 volunteers canned 40,000 pounds of turkey into 22,000 cans in five days, Showalter said.

In addition to meat canning, the relief center will include space for quilting, a collection center for local relief drives, mission awareness and education center and soap making.

Showalter said the relief center's 28 board members have been working closely with the Mennonite Central Committee, which will distribute all of the materials the local center will collect.

Currently, the closest center is about 90 miles away in Ephrata, Pa., which is the East Coast center. Recent shipments from there have gone to Honduras, Serbia and Bosnia.

"The neat thing about this center is it will open up a lot of new possibilities," Showalter said, possibly including fruit drying as a California center does.

Showalter said the project will cost $300,000 for the facility and office building. Between fund-raising banquets and hard work by the churches involved, they have raised $175,000 for the project.

Tax deductible donations can be sent to: Cumberland Valley Relief Center, 4225 Molly Pitcher Highway, Chambersburg, PA 17201.

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