Relief Kits: Small Efforts Add Up

As she was volunteering at the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager Brown Supply Depot in Louisiana last week, Cynthia Root reflected on how, when it comes to relief supply kits, a seemingly small contribution can grow into a huge blessing.

Root is a member of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Each fall, the Iowa Conference celebrates a "Thanksgiving Ingathering," during which churches across the state assemble and collect relief-supply kits. The tradition, which began in 1980, has grown every year, said Root.

Two semi-trucks, donated by a private company, travel across the state picking up kits from various drop-off points. Each fall, Root travels to Sager Brown to help unload the thousands of kits collected. "Our church gets maybe a hundred kits and some of the really small churches get ten or 15 kits but when you start pulling it together, it turns into such a huge blessing," she said.

UMCOR's relief supply network includes Sager Brown, UMCOR West in Salt Lake City, and other United Methodist warehouses across the country. In 2015, UMCOR distributed kits valued at $3.1 million, including more than 132,000 health kits; 65,000 school kits; and 36,000 birthing kits.

As the supplies make it into the hands of disaster survivors and others in need, Amy Fuselier, executive director of UMCOR Relief Supplies, said she is proud to work with a dedicated team of people who strive to make the experience of volunteers — like Cynthia Root — exceptional. "Volunteers come up to me and tell me what a great group of people I work with," she said.

Congregations that want to assemble relief-supply kits should check the UMCOR website since needs change rapidly in the wake of disasters. Volunteers can also find opportunities to help out at the depots.

Though she has been to Sager Brown many times when helping with Ingathering, this is Root's first time visiting the depot to volunteer in other ways. "I love this place," she said, and she urged others to get involved in assembling and collecting relief supplies. "We can all do a little bit," she said.

Susan Kim, journalist and regular contributor to www.umcor.org

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