August 15, 2012

Incredible school kit drive

Winston and Elsie Heisey
Winston and Elsie Heisey, of Annville, Pa. Church of the Brethren, get help from Brenda Giles (left) unloading school kits at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, MD. Photo: Elizabeth Mullich

by Jeanne Smith

I have to share this story with you. It's been a highlight of my summer!

A couple of months ago, my husband Herb and I went to Pa. to be near our families for the summer. I had planned to "skip" the Church World Service school kit drive that I have done since 2005. It was a takeoff on the year our McPherson, Kan. Church of the Brethren sponsored an all-church Hunger Project. I had learned that literacy is a key player in eliminating world hunger, so I sewed about 50 school kits for a "hunger project" and sent them to Church World Service that summer.

Each summer since then, I asked Brethren women from several churches here in Pa. to help sew school kits for Church World Service. Each year we added a few more kits, last year finally reaching 400.

This year, after Herb's hospitalization due to an unexpected dog bite that kept us from leading our college students to Ethiopia (the students went without us), I was exhausted and decided to skip the school kit drive that I usually led each summer. However, as fate (and the Almighty) would have it, before we left for Pa., one woman from Mt. Zion Church of the Brethren called to say she already had sewn 159 school kits for "our drive" this year!

A few weeks later when we arrived in Pa., a second call came from Mt. Wilson CoB. Their women had sewn another 250! That made over our usual 400 with MY sewing machine still in the closet. Finally, Hershey (Spring Creek) CoB contacted me to report that they had 50+ additional kits finished and ready to go!

Tonight (Aug. 2) was the night for boxing the kits. Only two people called to let me know they could help. I was worried about getting the job finished. When 7:00 p.m. rolled around, I was shocked when people started pouring in the doors. We had a good 25-30 here from Hershey, Lebanon, Annville, Mt. Zion, Mt. Wilson, Palmyra, and Myerstown Churches of the Brethren packing school kits for a couple of hours. We ended up with more than 450 kits. In previous years, we barely got over 400, even with a dozen women and me sewing all summer!

I became concerned that we could find someone with a large enough vehicle to haul that many kits to New Windsor, Md., where Church World Service (warehouses its kits). At last, I found a driver who could go a week from now, but who could only take part of them. Finally, tonight at the drive, one of our volunteers said she could drive some to New Windsor … tomorrow! We stuffed her large vehicle full of kits.

She will pick up my high school Sunday School teacher in Gettysburg on the way and tell her all about it. That teacher, Anna Kepner from Marsh Creek Church of the Brethren, introduced me to CWS school kits back in 1957. After Anna's lesson on CWS, I made my first "school kit" using a cigar box from my grandfather, Orville Jacoby.

The remainder of the kits have found storage space here at Mt. Lebanon until Winston and Elsie Heisey from Annville Church of the Brethren deliver them to New Windsor next week.

In spite of my limitations this summer, God was bountiful and provided the energy. Miracles happen in spite of us. We are called to serve.