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Group assembles kits for tsunami victims

February 13, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Viewing media images of the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed more than 100,000 people in Southern Asia can leave Americans feeling helpless to relieve the suffering of the many thousands of people left homeless by the disaster.

But, through a Franklin County relief agency, local people can donate goods or money and know that their contributions will reach those who need them.

The Cumberland Valley Relief Center south of Chambersburg is assembling relief kits for the victims. The kits consist of towels, toiletries, soaps and detergents.

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The kits will be sent to Indonesia through the Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pa. MCC is the relief, development and peace agency of the Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and other Anabaptist churches in North America.

The initial shipment of 20,000 kits from North America is slated for Feb. 28. The Indonesian Mennonite Churches are assembling 2,000 relief kits.

The items are tightly and precisely packed into new, covered plastic five-gallon buckets supplied by MCC. Recipients will reuse the buckets for carrying or storing drinking water, or for keeping possessions dry, said Susan Wadel, director of the Cumberland Valley Relief Center.

To date, MCC has received $10 million in donations, which was used to airlift medical equipment, water purification equipment and canned meat to Asia, and to purchase rice, blankets, clothing and medicines. Much of the purchasing has been from regional partners in Asia.

The relief agency is careful not to upset the local economy when it enters a country with aid, Wadel said.

MCC also has paid for transportation of volunteers and equipment in Asia.

The tsunami relief effort is MCC's single largest response to a natural disaster in its 85-year history.

Two families from a Poolesville, Md., home-schooling group worked on the relief kits Tuesday as a service project, putting bottles of shampoo into resealable plastic bags and removing the wrappers from 400 hairbrushes.

Nancy Kasner brought her four children - Kevin, 12; Michael, 10; Stephanie, 8; and Timothy, 3.

"This is the third time we've been here this school year," Nancy Kasner said. "The kids can't wait to come. Stephanie and Michael want to learn to use the sewing machine."

Rhoda Sauder stood between two sewing machines in another workroom, teaching the children the fine points of operating the machines as they stitched blocks for comforters for Sudanese refugees, another project of the relief center. "Make sure your needle is up," she instructed Michael.

Stephanie put together a very neat nine-patch block for a cover to be sent to "other countries who need blankets," she said. She had knotted comforters earlier in the day, and said she likes to come to the center to learn things.

Sauder, who sews patches for the comforter tops for the Sudan at her Hagerstown home, attended with her daughter-in-law, Michele Sauder, and grandson, Kyle, 11.

Kevin Kasner likes the large quantities of items in the packing room.

"I've never seen a whole Tide box full of combs before," he said.

Timothy helped to unpack tubes of toothpaste and hairbrushes, then picked up a bottle of shampoo and put it in a plastic bag.

"I wanna help," he said.

Wadel showed the children photos and memorabilia from Indonesia and Sri Lanka so they could "learn about the culture and what the country looked like before the tsunami," she said.

Volunteers from ages 3 to 93 help out at the center, Wadel said.

People may give a monetary donation, or donate all or some of the items for an Asia relief kit.

"We buy the rest," Wadel said. "I try to get discounts wherever I can."

Various churches, individuals and community groups, including Waynesboro Area Middle School, a Red Hat Society, Computer Science Corporation, a farm women's group and a Latin-American motorcycle group, all have helped, Wadel said.

Volunteers have packed 200 relief kits at the relief center so far; the center has supplies for 300 to 400 more, Wadel said. Her goal is to send 2,000 kits, the amount that fills a shipping container.

For more information on the relief efforts, go to www.mcc.org/asiaearthquake.

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