The recent disasters in China, Japan, Myanmar and Iowa have prompted countless organizations around the world to lend assistance to those in need. In an effort to meet that need the La Crescenta Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organized a hygiene kit humanitarian aid project Saturday morning. More than 100 volunteers were present at the church's worship center on Wilson Avenue in Glendale to assemble more than 15,000 kits in four hours.
The event began at 7:30 a.m., and by the time it ended at 11 a.m., more than 15,846 kits had been assembled, according to estimates by church staff. The event drew congregations from various faiths, including the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge, which serves the Crescenta Valley, and the LDS Church La Cañada 1st Ward.
“This is exactly what interfaith dialog is all about,” said Levent Akbarut of the Islamic Congregation.
The church had originally estimated enough donations for 10,000 kits; however, additional donations from church members and the community increased the amount of kits possible — so many in fact, that volunteers quickly ran out of boxes. Project staff, however, were able to quickly remedy the situation by reusing supply boxes around the facility, according to LDS La Crescenta Stake Humanitarian Specialist Cathy Ellingford.
“We are doing this as a community project — it's a humanitarian project, humanitarian service — to any people anywhere, any faith, any race,” said Scott Draper, a volunteer with the LDS church.
The pallets of hygiene kits will be transported by truck to a bishop's storehouse in the San Fernando Valley. From there, they will be shipped to disaster areas. Shipments to Myanmar are made through LDS partner CARE International, that has worked in the country for the past 14 years. In addition to the hygiene kits, blankets, tents, water and food will also be shipped.
“Wherever there are natural disasters, and there is a need for this, they [LDS] either send it directly or they team with other organizations,” said Ellingford.
“If you know it's going to help someone, even better,” said Glendale 7th Ward Member and South Pasadena resident Spencer Chiu, who skipped work Saturday to volunteer at the LDS project with his friends. “Certain things money can't buy. That's how it is.”
The kitsare designed for up to four people to use, according to LDS public affairs director Lisa Grigg, and contain basic toiletries, such as combs, toothbrushes, bars of soap, wash towels and toothpaste, which are sealed in a plastic bag.
The kits were assembled in an assembly line fashion; each volunteer was responsible for one or two articles per kit. At the end of the line, the kits were put into a cardboard box, then the boxes were loaded several at a time to a waiting truck — one of three that had departed that morning — outside the church auditorium.
Roberta Daniels of the LDS Verdugo Hills Ward found it especially positive that congregations from other faiths were able to participate.
“I had fun,” Daniels said. “I think that it's wonderful that the whole community works together to help other people in other countries and other communities.”
LDS Church member and Montrose resident Chad Durieux was among several people hauling boxes out of the auditorium and into the waiting trucks. The hot morning sun did not seem to faze him as he loaded box after box of hygiene kits.
“I love doing this,” said Durieux, who has been doing service projects his whole life. “Serve for life, man.”
“It does not matter who's leading this great humanitarian effort as we are all simply acting as servants of God helping victims of a tragedy,” said Akbarut. “It is difficult to imagine anything more righteous than Foothill neighbors coming together for the hygiene kit humanitarian aid project.”
“It lets you feel good. You do. You feel good,” said Daniels.