Written By Anne Blue

By two months after the tsunami hit, 196,000 pounds of relief supplies, worth $2.8 million dollars, had left a large warehouse in New Windsor and were airlifted to destinations in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia. The supplies went to areas where on December 26, the largest earthquake in 40 years had triggered a tidal wave that killed more than 150, 000 people and left millions more in 12 countries needing food, shelter and basic supplies.

The health and medical kits sent from the Brethren Service Center warehouse in New Windsor include such basic supplies as soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, aspirin and multivitamins. Loretta Wolf, Director of Service Ministries at the warehouse, recognizes that even though the quantity seems massive, the shipments that have left New Windsor are only a minute part of the relief effort aimed at helping people in those countries recover and rebuild.

“These health and medical kits lend themselves well to what’s needed immediately after the disaster,” said Wolf, who oversees packing and distribution.

Wolf has been at the Brethren Service Center for 29 years, beginning as a receiving clerk, doing key entry, and clerical work. She is now managing distribution of supplies at the warehouse.

The Brethren Service Center works through the Church World Service organization based in New York City. Church World Service is a coalition of many Christian denominations that work together to relieve pain and suffering and build better lives for needy people all over the world. The Brethren Service Center began receiving requests for help from Church World Service personnel already working in countries hit by the tsunami shortly after it devastated a large portion of southeast Asia. Within a week, the Brethren Service Center had sent its first shipment of supplies.

Initially, the supplies are typically boxes of health kits, medical kits, and blankets. After immediate needs are met, shipments will begin to include school kits for children and other specialty items. Where does the Brethren Service Center get all of these kits? “The kits are made up by individuals, church groups, school groups, scouts, and even businesses,” says Wolf. “These groups, from all over the United States, send their donations to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor.”

Then Wolf and her crew go to work.

They must pack the kits, usually about 50 health kits to a carton, weigh and label each carton and store these in the warehouse. Wolf keeps up a weekly inventory of supplies. She and other personnel try to match the inventory in the New Windsor warehouses with the requests for aid from around the world. The requests are coordinated by Church World Service, which lets Brethren Service Center know where and how much to send.

Wolf then supervises the delivery of shipments to BWI airport or the Port of Baltimore where containers are packed and loaded onto cargo planes or ocean liners. Once they arrive at their destinations, Church World Service personnel coordinate distribution to people in need.

“Initially, some of the shipments were airlifted,” said Roy Winter, Executive Director of the Brethren Service Center. “The medical kits and health kits have a pretty good value relative to weight for the cost of airlifting. These supplies are in country within a couple of days.”

“Sending the supplies by cargo ship is much slower, but also much more cost effective,” continues Winter.

For anyone who has ever shipped packages overseas, high shipping costs are a familiar headache. To counter these costs, Brethren Service Center asks that donors of health and school kits send $1 to the Church World Service office in Elkhart, Indiana, to help defray the shipping costs. Even then, Brethren Service Center and Church World Service must solicit additional donations to cover high shipping costs.

“We’ll be shipping these health kits to the tsunami areas for quite awhile,” says Wolf. “We’ve had more requests than we have supplies. If people still want to donate, we always need to restock our warehouse. If it is not the tsunami disaster, it will be mudslides in California, hurricanes in the South, floods in West Virginia, or other disasters somewhere in the world. Supplies are always needed; they come and go quickly here.”

“Some days this feels like an ordinary job,” continues Wolf, “but talking to people who have been affected by disasters and helped by supplies from the Brethren Service Center is very gratifying.

“This is an exciting place to work. We have visitors from all over the world and something is always happening here at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor.”


How to Help

If you want to donate a Health Kit, School Kit or cash to the Church World Services tsunami relief effort, here’s what is needed:

Health Kit
¥ One hand towel
¥ One washcloth
¥ One comb
¥ One bar soap
¥ One nail file or nail clippers
¥ One toothbrush
¥ One tube toothpaste
¥ Six Band-Aids

Seal all items in a one-gallon plastic bag with a zipper closure. Or, if you prefer, a donation of $12 will allow Church World Service to provide a Health Kit. Processing and shipping: $1.00

School Kit
¥ One pair of blunt scissors
¥ Pads or notebooks of ruled paper 8-1/2” X 11” containing
150-200 sheets of paper
¥ One 30-centimeter ruler (12”)
¥ One pencil sharpener
¥ Six new pencils with erasers
¥ One large eraser
¥ Twelve sheets colored construction paper
¥ One box of 24 crayons
¥ One 12” X 14” cloth bag with cloth handles and a closure (Velcro,
snap, or button)

Pack these items in the cloth bag and secure contents with the closure. Or, if you prefer, a donation of $11 per kit will allow Church World Service to buy school supplies for use in classroom settings. Processing and shipping: $1.00

Send all kits prepaid to:
Brethren Service Center
601 Main Street P.O. Box 188
New Windsor, Md 21776-0188

Send donations ($1 per kit) for
processing and shipping to:
Church World Service
P.O. Box 968
Elkhart, IN 46515