09/11/05 — MERCI Center prepares supplies

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MERCI Center prepares supplies

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on September 11, 2005 2:05 AM

Susan Brown of Richmond, Va., sits just inside the warehouse door at the Marion Edwards Recovery Center Initiatives (MERCI) in the Rosewood community.

It is Saturday morning, and she, 14-year-old daughter Hannah, and their new friend, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Parker of Goldsboro, are seated in a small circle, counting items that will be put into health kits. The kits will be sent to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Last year, Mrs. Brown's home was flooded. Water stood high in her basement and proved to be quite an inconvenience.

That, she says, was enough to give her an idea of what it is like to be hurt by a flood.

And, she adds, it is not nearly as terrible as what happened to the people Katrina affected.

It breaks her heart to think about what they are going through, and she wants to help.

She's not alone. On just this one day, 75 people are helping prepare supplies to send to those in need. Others are inside, taking phone calls, answering e-mails and entering information into MERCI's computer system.

Standing just inside the warehouse is volunteer Candie Dail of Portsmouth, Va., who is helping to organize where the donated supplies will go.

Tech. Sgt. Parker walks up to her, gives her a hug and announces that this is her mother. Mrs. Dail is pleased to not only have the chance to volunteer, but to visit her daughter. She plans to make repeat visits -- to see her daughter again and to volunteer at the warehouse.

Some volunteers have already put in time at the warehouse. More are coming. All want to put their faith into action.

It's not just the United Methodists who are there. In an office inside the building, George Strunk is keeping the lines of communication open for Lutherans in North and South Carolina.

Most of the Lutheran Church's response work is being handled by an office in Chicago but, here in Wayne County, Strunk is making sure information is sent to Carolinians who want to help.

Strunk is the disaster response coordinator for the Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas and Lutheran Disaster Response. His office in the MERCI center keeps him from having to spend part of his time commuting back and forth to an out-of-town location. That is especially helpful right now, when work lasts 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week.

Out in the warehouse, Miriam Kirkwood directs a group of volunteers that has just arrived. After leading the group in prayer, she offers safety instructions and then partners them with other volunteers who have already been trained on how to put health kits together. She leads them to a part of the warehouse, telling them to carry one of the folding tables so they will have a work station.

A large white sign is on display, listing what goes into the kits. People pack individual kits, which are then placed in boxes and sealed.

As everyone works, Wilburn L. "Bill" Norton Jr., director of communications for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, takes pictures and conducts interviews. He is gathering information to share with United Methodists across the state through the newspaper, "The Christian Advocate," and the conference's Web site, www.nccumc.org.

He came in from Raleigh.

Mrs. Kirkwood lives near Salem, Ore. She was here for seven months last year. She accepts no salary for her work. She just wants the chance to serve.

Since the end of last month, the volunteers have been steadily coming in from across the state, as well as from Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.

As they have prepared kits, the supplies have run out. And then, they are replenished as people bring in truck loads of necessities: diapers, baby formula, feminine hygiene products, work gloves and more.

Much is needed and will continue to be needed.

Want to volunteer? Ann Huffman, coordinator of volunteers, asks that you call first. At times, more people are coming than can be given work. To volunteer, call 739-9167. Sometimes everyone is so busy, calls cannot be answered personally. Just keep trying, Mrs. Huffman requests.

Want to donate products? Come anytime between 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. The warehouse and offices are closed on Sunday.

MERCI is located at 676 Community Drive.

Currently, it is most interested in collecting items for health kits, layettes and cleaning buckets. Here's what is needed:

*For UMCOR Health Kit: A hand towel, a bath-size bar of soap in original wrapper, a washcloth, a toothbrush in original sealed package, a regular size hair comb, six adhesive bandages, a nail file or nail clipper and a large tube of toothpaste. If there is an expiration date on the toothpaste, it should be two years from today's date.

*For UMCOR layette: Six cloth diapers, two diaper pins, two shirts, a sweater, two baby washcloths, two receiving blankets and two gowns.

*For UMCOR cleaning bucket: Five-gallon bucket with resealable lid, a half-gallon or three-quart container of liquid bleach, five scouring pads, a scrub brush, reusable package of 18 cleaning towels, such as Handiwipes, package of seven sponges in assorted sizes, 50-ounce container of laundry detergent, 12-ounce container of household cleaner concentrate, 28-ounce bottle of disinfectant dish soap, 50 clothes pins, 100-foot-by-3/16-inch clothesline, five-pack dust masks, package of two pairs of latex gloves, a pair of work gloves, 24-bag roll of 45-gallon trash bags, 14-ounce container of insect repellent and a nine-ounce container of air freshener.

Want more information? MERCI's Web site is www.merciumc.org. A Lutheran Web site you can check is www.elca.org/disaster.