The CWS Kits ministry: many hands, lots of love

Sam Fore | June 4, 2019

CWS staff member Lenny Blue (left) with volunteers at the Lincoln, NE depot.

The CWS Kits ministry is one that amazes me every time.

I recently became the Congregational Outreach Specialist here at CWS. Every time I work with congregations — whether it’s through our Blankets program, Kits ministry or something else — their generosity and compassion warm my heart.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how the congregations who have volunteered to become a kit depot are amazing. They are willing to do so much to help others in need! They open their doors to collect tens of thousands of CWS Kits each year.

This year, we had a particularly large need. Disasters hit hard last year, and we shipped out thousands and thousands of kits. We had to ramp up our collections this year because we didn’t have enough left in stock. Luckily, our depots stepped in to help.

CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets at the Lincoln, NE depot.

Many kit depots opened their doors this spring to collect kits. Their generosity means that we will be able to send CWS Hygiene Kits, Emergency Cleanup Buckets and School Kits to those who are in desperate need. In addition to our faithful depots that open year after year, we had new congregations step up to help, too. The new groups have been so wonderful when navigating the new process of becoming a kit depot! For example, our new depot in Lincoln, Nebraska helped respond to the disastrous flooding in Nebraska and the surrounding communities. The new depot in West Des Moines, Iowa also stepped up and was willing to be open longer than planned to help build up our low inventory of kits! All of the new depots have been outstanding in this process.

And the depots themselves are just one part of the wonderful depot system. The amazing groups and congregations who assemble the CWS Kits and then drop them off at the depots are so precious to us. Volunteers and donors may drive for hours at a time to drop off kits. Every time I hear one of these stories, I am reminded of how much determination our supporters have. They are willing to go the extra mile — or a couple hundred extra miles, really — to bring comfort and help to families impacted by storms, poverty or homelessness.

CWS Kit supplies at our warehouse in Elkhart, IN.

Many of our depots have told us how grateful they are to work alongside the other volunteers. Pascale from United Congregational Church in Bridgeport, CT conveyed “what a joy [it is] to work alongside good-hearted people.”

Our team echoes the sentiment. Larry, a Senior Development Officer at CWS, mentioned, “The pastor of the Lansing Central UMC Kit Depot was just happy to collect the Kits for Church World Service, he mentioned that if there was a disaster that they would be willing to take in more if needed. It just shows how Kit Depots are so responsive and willing to help out.”

Every year, donors and volunteers come back to the same depots… seeing old friends and catching up with each other. “It’s always nice to catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in a year,” Nancy Jean from Second Congregational Church in Bennington, Vermont said. The sense of community in this ministry is such a wonderful experience!

From January to May 2019, we’ve shipped out more than 5,800 CWS Hygiene Kits, 1,600 School Kits, 2,200 Emergency Cleanup Buckets and 11,600 Blankets. That’s more than 21,000 supplies that are bringing warmth, comfort, dignity and help to families facing tough days.

This wouldn’t be possible without our depots, volunteers and donors. “Church World Service is so grateful for our dedicated kit volunteers. Each year these volunteers assemble CWS Hygiene Kits, CWS School Kits and CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, so they can be distributed to people in their time of need. The generosity of these volunteers is inspiring!” Matthew Stevens, Director of Congregational Giving, said.

It’s officially hurricane season now. We’re doing everything we can to get more kits on our shelves so that we will be able to respond when the call comes. I encourage you to visit where you can find out how to put together kits and where to drop them off at! Let’s all come together and support those in need.

Sam Fore is the Congregational Outreach Specialist with CWS.