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Mitchell church undertakes drive to provide aid to earthquake victims

Coca-Cola General Manager Doug Goehring, left, County Fair Assistant Manager Justin Luther and Mitchell Congregational United Church of Christ's Rev. Kristi Mclaughlin pick out items that will go into a personal hygiene kit that can be purchased at a discounted price to help earthquake victims in Haiti. Hygiene items and baby items are needed and will be sent to Haiti through Church World Service now through the end of February. Several Mitchell businesses including Shopko, Kmart, Walmart, County Fair an...

A local church is organizing a relief effort for Church World Service to provide hygiene and baby kits to Haitian earthquake victims.

Doug Goehring, chairman of Mitchell Congregational United Church of Christ's missions committee, said he realized that little was being done in the community to help survivors.

So he spoke with the Rev. Kristi McLaughlin, who serves at MCUCC. She and Goehring learned that global missions are being conducted and the UCC Global Missions district office in Sioux Falls had compiled a need list.

"We have our issues with snowstorms and rainstorms," Goehring said. "How do you deal with the issue of not having a home or a place to go?"

The church is gathering kits for Church World Service, an Elkhart, Ind.-based organization that works with disaster relief efforts. The group is providing emergency supplies via local partners in Haiti and working with them on temporary shelter, food and health assistance, according to its Web site.

Goehring has been speaking with local grocery and retail stores about packaging items in kits to sell for $2.50. So far, all have agreed and he planned to speak with one Thursday.

"Customers can buy as much as they want," he said. "We'll pick them up and get them to where they are supposed to go.

"If we could get 5,000 to 6,000 kits, that would be great."

Goehring and the committee would take items to the UCC office in Sioux Falls, which would then transport the items to the next stop, he said.

Jackie Horton, executive director of American Red Cross Dakota Plains chapter in Mitchell, said churches are better able to send supplies internationally because of ties to mission groups.

She noted a Girl Scout troop wanted to donate items.

"It would be difficult to get those supplies to Haiti," Horton said. "You may get a truckload of things and now ... how are you going to distribute it?"

She recommends that monetary donations be made to organizations to reputable relief agencies such as the Red Cross.

The Mitchell community has donated $800 to the Red Cross for relief efforts in the small Caribbean country, Horton said.

The number is low because residents were asked to help replenish the local disaster relief fund after a couple of fires depleted it, Horton said.

Some local groups or businesses are finding ways to raise money for the Red Cross for earthquake victims.

John Paul II Elementary School's student council will give money from its Snack Days and popcorn sales to the Red Cross, Horton said.

Amstar, which makes fresh popcorn balls on Wednesdays, will give the Red Cross 50 percent of proceeds from those sales, Manager Brenda Mayer said.

The popcorn balls sell for $1.50 and the convenience store sells 100 on average, she said.

Horton contacted Mayer recently about making a contribution, and she decided this was the best way to do it.

"(We) just want to help wherever we can help," Mayer said. "Much is needed everywhere."