MCC photo/Jennifer Steiner

Wyatt Skarl, age 11, participates in a kit packing descramble activity with other volunteers from Oak Grove Mennonite Church at the MCC Material Resources Center in Kidron, Ohio.

When volunteers contact the two MCC material resources centers in the Great Lakes region, they are eager to do hands-on work assembling kits and preparing them for shipment. Over the past several years, MCC staff have made a concerted effort to also take the opportunity to help educate volunteers about the kits, the people who receive them and how MCC works.

Sarah Geiser and Nadine Zook Miller, coordinators at the respective material resources centers in Kidron, Ohio, and Goshen, Indiana, share stories from some of the people and places that receive MCC kits and comforters. They’ve found that putting a face or a name to people on the receiving end makes the physical work feel more personal.

“People are always grateful for the pictures and stories that go with them,” says Zook Miller. “I sometimes hear, ‘I didn’t know that’ after I share stories. Rolling towels in our warehouse can seem tedious, but seeing a photo of someone across the world holding a relief bucket makes the process a lot more meaningful.”   

When there are MCC storytellers coming through the region, they will oftentimes stop in the centers and spend some time sharing with volunteers about the MCC partners who request the kits and comforters.

Both Geiser and Zook Miller have also utilized a kit descramble activity that challenges volunteers to sort through a box of assorted kit supplies and attempt to put together items from each kit. “Groups really enjoy working together to try and solve the puzzle of what items go in each kit,” says Geiser. “It’s wonderful to watch the adults helping children use critical thinking skills to learn more about MCC and sharing God’s love around the world with others.”

The activity also encourages volunteers to examine the items and figure out why they are included in a particular kit or raise questions about them. For example, why do we now ask for metal pencil sharpeners in school kits? Why do we no longer pack toothpaste in kits? Why do we ask for bars of laundry soap rather than powder in the relief kits?

Geiser uses the opportunity to explain how the kits are developed. “We don’t just randomly choose items for each kit, but we ask recipients and partners what would be most useful to them,” explains Geiser.

Although stopping the sorting and packing for these educational activities may hinder the sheer volume of work, these learning moments are invaluable as they remind volunteers why we do what we do.

Elizabeth Stauffer is a long-time volunteer at the MCC Material Resources Center at The Depot in Goshen. In fact, her mother’s family were among some of the first recipients of food aid from MCC in 1920 in Ukraine.

“I had an epiphany moment when, during a break from processing school kits, Nadine showed us a video clip of a school kit distribution,” reflects Stauffer. “I watched the faces of the children and teachers as they received the kits, and suddenly knew that as I arranged notebooks and pencils in the bags, I was helping to change the world - and that is not only a good thing, but a holy thing.”

Learn more about volunteering at a Great Lakes Material Resources Center

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