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Methodists make difference in disasters

Church is preparing health kits for mission trip to Louisiana


by: REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Nancy White, left, and Bev Whitehead display the baby garments the church has prepared for UMCOR. Of the countless items packed in kits by the members of Lake Oswego United Methodist Church, perhaps the most impressive is a tiny blue sweater for a newborn baby. It took a lot of knitting by one kind lady, and it symbolizes the effort the church has offered in aid of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Today, 21 church members are ready to roll on Sunday to Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La., where they will fill up a warehouse with much-needed items for victims of disasters. The enthusiasm that went into their work is exemplified by project leaders Nancy White and Bev Whitehead.

“It is remarkable when you think of how many hands touched a kit before it gets to the person that needs it,” White said.

“It shows the joy of working with UMCOR,” Whitehead said.

It also goes to show just how busy the church has been in recent weeks. For instance, the health care kit contains nail clippers, soap, a comb, bandages and a toothbrush, all perfectly wrapped in a towel. There’s also a layette kit with diapers, gowns and the beautiful blue sweater. The birthing kid includes 3-yards of plastic, three pieces of string, latex gloves, two blankets, soap and a razor blade.

Whitehead and White have extensive experience in disaster relief situations across the globe.

“When Katrina hit UMCOR delivered 48,000 health kits immediately,” said Whitehead. “The palettes filled with health kits can be pulled down and the stuff can be distributed immediately.”

“Even the United Nations asks UMCOR for advice on how to deal with emergency relief,” White said.

“FEMA called UMCOR on advice on the last disaster,” Whitehead said. “Things went a lot better than they did on the previous disaster.”

When people think of “disaster” they usually think of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. But disasters happen every week somewhere in the world.

“It could be Hurricane Katrina or a flood in North Dakota,” Whitehead said. “Or an earthquake in Portland.”

That means UMCOR has to be ready — and careful.

“We have to be very specific to meet the criteria of the countries,” Whitehead said.

This will be the third trip to Louisiana for White and the sixth for Whitehead. They are greatly anticipating the coming week.

“It’s going to be fun,” White said. “The depot is located on a beautiful bayou, and we do fun things like touring swamps. They cook for us, so there’s going to be plenty of Louisiana food.”

Also plenty of work. White had tabulated many of the items sent by LOUMC in recent years. The donations include: 96 birthing kits, 131 school bags, 320 baby gowns, 69 sweaters and 50 health kits.

“One time I taught a health class for girls in the Republic of Georgia,” Whitehead said. “After the health kits were passed out, one girl said, ‘Now I have my own towel!’”

To help the Methodist mission team, checks can be made out to LOUMC, and on the memo line write Adult Mission Team/kits or Adult Mission Team/expenses.

Lake Oswego United Methodist Church is located at 1855 South Shore Blvd., in Lake Oswego. For more information, call 503 636-8423.