ST. JOSEPH — Personal care and school supply kits donated by Peace Lutheran Church of St. Joseph were among the $624,000 worth of donations from Lutheran World Relief destroyed in the Aug. 4 explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 150 people and injured more than 5,000.
The Rev. Steve Hartten, pastor of the church, said the kits were on their way to be delivered to refugees living in Lebanon, principally from Syria and the Palestinian territories. He said that three large shipping containers filled with donations were unloaded onto the dock the day before the explosion happened.
“They never had a chance to get to where they were going,” he said. “The explosion damaged a large area.”
The personal care kits included bath towels, bars of soap, toothbrushes, combs and nail clippers.
“While these may be basic items that we take for granted, for refugees who have lost their homes and oftentimes have been displaced from their families, there’s a personal touch here knowing that the kits were packaged by Christians in the United States,” he said. “That impacts the lives of these refugees in ways that are hard to measure.”
The school supply kits include notebooks, pencils, pens, rulers, crayons, erasers and drawstring backpack-style cloth bags.
Hartten said his church has been putting together about 300 kits annually for more than a decade, with the personal care kits done in the spring and the school supply kits completed in the fall.
He said they have no idea where the kits will end up when they put them together.
“Lutheran World Relief coordinates these donations throughout the United States and then sends them where needed,” he said.
He said past shipments have gone to help people in India and Africa.
Hartten said that his church is gearing up to make school supply kits this fall, although they are still working out the details so the kits can be put together safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said they will make as many kits as they have donations for.
Checks can be made out to Peace Lutheran Church, with LWR Kits written in the memo line, and mailed to Peace Lutheran Church, 3590 Lincoln Ave., St. Joseph, MI 49085.
Anyone who would like to donate items for the kits can drop them off between 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday at the church. Donations are also accepted at 10:15 a.m. on Sundays.
Lutheran World Relief has very specific guidelines for kits. Items must be new and can’t have any religious or patriotic symbols on them, including camouflage. The kits or their contents can’t be enclosed in plastic bags.
For more information, call the church at 556-7000.
In a news release, Lutheran World Relief reported that also lost were more than 22,000 quilts sewn by members of Lutheran congregations across the U.S.
“Our quilts are made with love by those who painstakingly craft them, and they’re deeply appreciated by the people in distress who receive them, both for the warmth and the message of care they provide,” said Melanie Gibbons, deputy director, outreach and engagement at Lutheran World Relief.
Besides the deaths and injuries, the explosions left at least 300,000 people without shelter. The blast was strong enough to register as the equivalent of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake and was felt as far as Cyprus, 150 miles away.
“Our hearts are breaking as we grieve and pray with our brothers and sisters in Beirut,” said Daniel Speckhard, president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief. “We are committed to replacing the aid that was lost and are working on an emergency response to provide assistance as the city recovers and rebuilds.”