In Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties of Ohio, churches rallied together when they heard about the need for relief supplies for refugees in Syria who have been forced to flee from their homes. During the Lent season, community members donated money or purchased supplies for 1,525 MCC relief kits.
The community then gathered together for three celebratory kit packing events that brought together around 150 individuals, including seven area churches. Each kit contains bath soap, shampoo, laundry soap, toothbrushes, bath towels, combs, fingernail clipper, adhesive bandages and sanitary pads.
During the events on April 9, 12 and 19, there were several steps in the process. One group worked on taking materials from donated kits (in plastic bags) and packed them into buckets. Another group packed buckets from bulk supplies that were purchased with donated dollars. Completed buckets from both groups were then taken to a packing area where other volunteers pounded on the lids before placing the buckets on pallets and shrink wrapping them for shipment. Still more volunteers helped keep the assembly lines supplied by unpacking supplies, rolling towels, putting shampoo in plastic bags and labeling buckets.
“The events were really festive - a party atmosphere,” said Virgil Troyer, manager of the MCC Connections Thrift Shop and Material Resource Center in Kidron, Ohio. “It was loud, chaotic and fast-paced. When it was all done, we just took a deep breath and wondered at what we had produced.”
Several local retailers helped the process by making it easy for people to find the supplies. They put together displays in their stores with the items to make up the relief kits, so people could walk in, easily purchase the kit contents and have them delivered through their local church.
Myron Weaver, pastor of Berlin Mennonite Church, was a major force behind the project. He had coordinated a similar project at another local church several years ago. Weaver has traveled to the Middle East on numerous occasions, and on a recent trip to Jordan he encountered some Syrian refugees. “These experiences broaden your perspective of the world,” said Weaver. “This [kit drive] is a way we can be salt and light in the world that we live in.”
Each session included a time of sharing stories and information about the crisis in Syria, including firsthand perspectives from Daryl Byler, long-time MCC worker in the Middle East.
Organizers are planning for a similar event next year. “A lot of good happened at the events, but I can’t imagine the good that happens to those who receive it,” said Weaver.