It's a blanket response

Relief center sending sewn comforters to Sudanese

Relief center sending sewn comforters to Sudanese

September 05, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Through a local relief organization undertaking an ambitious project, Tri-State-area residents have the opportunity to help refugees suffering in Africa.

The Cumberland Valley Relief Center, which is affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee, has committed to sending 2,500 lightweight comforters to Sudan by Nov. 1. The comforters will be part of a shipment of 100,000 to be sent by MCC branches in the U.S. and Canada, along with $4.6 million in food and relief supplies.

MCC is the relief, development and peace agency of the Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and other Anabaptist churches in North America.


About 50,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced from their homes by roving militias in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Whole villages have fled militia attacks in recent months and set up makeshift camps, according to MCC officials in Akron, Pa.

"There were thousands of people who had really rough, rudimentary shelter - totally inadequate," reported MCC worker Willie Reimer, who visited the region in late July.

According to Susan Wadel, director of the Cumberland Valley Relief Center, the comforters for the Sudanese are "not just to cover with. Most importantly, a (comforter) lets them know someone cares. They can use it to sit on, to protect them from the hot sand and wind, and for shade. There is no privacy (in the refugee camps), and the (comforters) help with that."

Sewing room coordinator Marie Eby of Chambersburg said the relief center found out only a week ago about the huge number of comforters needed.

"We'll open Saturdays and evenings if people want to come in" to work on the comforters, she said.

Eby noted that when an earthquake struck Iran at the beginning of the year, the relief center produced 2,000 comforters and blankets between Jan. 1 and the end of February for that relief effort.

Last Wednesday, about 18 people gathered in the large sewing room at the relief center to work on the comforters and other projects. Donated material is washed and pressed. Patches are cut and sewn together either at the center or in homes.

After the backing and edging are cut and sewn to the comforter top, it is knotted in many places with crochet thread to hold it all together. Because these comforters are going to the hot country of Sudan, they have either no filling or a sheet between the layers.

Marie Starr and Deanna Meyers, both of Chambersburg, sat at sewing machines making cloth drawstring bags for the health kits and school kits that the center also assembles. Meyers said she has made 170 comfort tops and at least 400 bags for the school kits and health kits.

"When you retire, you have to have something to do," she said.

Nearby, Lois Martin of Chambersburg and Anna Grove of Shippensburg, Pa., knotted a comforter in the bright, pleasant room. Quilts hang on the walls, and supplies line floor-to-ceiling shelves.

Across the room, three women quilted a large green and white quilt for the Pennsylvania Relief Sale, held annually in April at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pa. At the last sale, the sale of quilts raised about $157,000 for relief efforts.

For more information or to volunteer to help make comforts, contact Wadel or Showalter at the Cumberland Valley Relief Center, 4225 Molly Pitcher Highway South, Chambersburg PA 17201. The phone number is 717-375-2088, and the fax number is 717-375-2036. E-mail may be sent to

Wadel and Showalter are available to speak to groups about the work of the relief center and how to become a part of it. Monetary donations or lightweight blankets may be dropped off at the center Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or by appointment.

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