Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photos MMDC #4 - Thank you, Trinity UMC

Susan and Carl were proud to present a check in the amount of $377.75 for Personal Dignity Kits to Mark Freeman and Pat Wright of MMDC. Thank you, Trinity!

Judy checks in the infant sweaters from Trinity UMC.

Susan (back left) helps sew school bags with Chris and Donna from Michigan. Some of the handles needed to be reinforced and the interior seams finished. Trinity donated perfectly made school bags.

Susan opens packages of toothbrushes donated by Trinity for Personal Dignity Kits.

Two local ladies stack washcloths and towels to be used in Personal Dignity Kits.

Michigan volunteers assemble Personal Dignity Kits.

Marty, Chris, Sally, and Jan put several items inside the towel and washcloth for Personal Dignity Kits: toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, nail clippers, razor, soap, shampoo, and deodorant.

Linda packs the Personal Dignity Kits into boxes. About 23 kits weigh a total of  38 pounds. Then the boxes are stacked in the warehouse.

 Roger prepares to deliver the very first ever Personal Dignity Kits to an area shelter.

Louise checks over hospital gowns sewed by members of Trinity and Patchwork Pals Quilt Guild.


         When the sun came up on Monday morning, Carl took this photo. It was really neat how the sun was shining on the semi-trailer, highlighting MMDC's "Mission in Motion."
         Monday when the Muskegan, MI, volunteers were getting their tour, Judy (the former monthly volunteer and now caretaker for the rest of the year) and I checked in some of the donations that came in last week. When a group brings things in, they're weighed and recorded, but they are not added to inventory until that group leaves. It speeds things up because there's no emotional attachment to what they work with while they're here. There are 10 adults in this group from Michigan staying in the dorm.
         We sorted baby sweaters, caps, mittens, scarves, and material for sewing that first hour in the heated warehouse. Then we went into the office/workroom building. Judy got the MI group started assembling school bags while she and I began to count the bags--except we found most of them didn't have reinforced handles. So I helped 2 of the gals sew today. In the afternoon Judy showed me what to do in the workroom to clean up for the day, and I took charge of that.

         Carl and Judy's husband Dick got a group set up to varnish school desks and then cut some things out in the wood shop. In the photo above, Julie and Dick work on a school desk. Dick also showed Carl where the post office is so that from now on he can pick up the mail every day. They also weighed in the donations and moved things in the warehouse.
         The staff here is pretty laid back. They don't move too fast because they are trying to make the volunteers feel at ease. If a volunteer can't stand, they give them a tall stool to sit on. If they can't lift heavy boxes, the staff (including the coordinators) does it for them. If they can't walk long distances, we get supplies for them from the warehouse. Most of the women working on school bags were 70 to 80 years old. The ones sewing with me were 50 and 67. The staff also is adamant that everyone takes a morning AND afternoon break AND takes an hour to go back to the dorm (or in our case the duplex) to eat lunch. We work from 8:00 to 5:00, but the volunteers work from 8:30 to 4:00. Tomorrow we'll need to go over about 7:30 and start the coffee maker.
         Lots of donations don't fit specifications for UMCOR kits, so those are "re-directed." For example, someone brought in some tanned deerskins. We will take them home for the Elks to give to the Veterans Home in Iowa for occupational therapy. There also was a threaded awl for them to use to sew leather.
         By Wednesday I suspect Carl and I will be doing more of the coordinators' jobs. It'll be different having Dick and Judy here with us, but they are really nice and want us to do the job we came for even though they're staying on. In the winter the caretakers don't have as much outside work to do (mowing, etc.) although Dick's handyman jobs are on-going. Today he and Carl found a gas leak in the dormitory furnace after someone reported smelling gas.
         Yesterday we couldn't get the satellite TV in the duplex to work, but today the director called in and they fixed it online. Tonight we decided to go buy some fresh vegetables and some milk. We're maybe 5 miles from the south side of Springfield where there is a Meijer's grocery / department store. And we decided to eat in a restaurant while we were near some.
         It's good we forwarded our home phone calls to my cell phone because I had someone call today about an organization I belong to at home. I didn't know that was possible until I called a new gal in my church circle, and she said they were in Florida for the winter! It doesn't even ring in at home but transfers automatically.
         Today it was 55 degrees here, but it was breezy and didn't feel that warm. We're out in the cornfields so the prairie winds are a-blowing.
         Wednesday night we plan to go to the Springfield Elks Lodge meeting. It's nice to have that home away from home.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


We left Charles City after church on Sunday, stopping in Cedar Rapids for lunch. It got warmer as we went south and was up to 41 degrees at one time. There was very little snow, just in protected areas and along tree lines, as we got to Mount Pleasant and then into Missouri. Crossed at Hannibal and arrived at MMDC about 5:30 p.m.
Our car was REALLY packed full--the back seat had all of our luggage and stuff...

...and in the trunk we had a couple of coolers with food and the items donated by members of our church and the community. That included roughly 225 items:
10 school bags
11 infant caps
12 toddler sweaters
 7 newborn sweaters with caps
63 hospital gowns (some needing elastic or matching top/shorts)
50 new adult T-shirts (I'm guessing at the number but they'll count them here)
 6 dozen toothbrushes
and some premie/newborn T-shirts and onesies (I forget how many)

The generosity of  people back home is incredible. Cash donations from members of Trinity United Methodist Church totaled over $300! That money will go toward personal dignity kits for the homeless.
The sun was setting as we arrived at Midwest Mission Distribution Center just south of Springfield, Illinois, near the town of Chatham.

After we unloaded the car and put our stuff away, we went to meet the caretakers. In the morning we meet at 8 a.m. for devotions with the staff, and at 8:30 the volunteers show up to start work.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Midwest Mission Distribution Center #1

January 27, 2012
We’ve started packing for our month-long trip to MMDC as on-site volunteer coordinators for the month of February. While we are there, we will be staying in a duplex on the 8-acre campus, which is 4 miles from Springfield, IL.

Besides the duplex (shown above), the site has a director’s house, a chapel, a gift shop, a dormitory, 3 warehouses, an office, RV sites, and picnic shelter. 

We will leave Charles City after church on Sunday, Jan. 29, and drive 350 miles to the campus. In May of 2011 we volunteered for a week at MMDC with Karen and Jay Cutler who had been there several times before. 

Since we are retired, Carl and I decided that we would like to return. We’ll welcome and sign in volunteers who come for the day from nearby churches or for the week from farther afield. We will also give newcomers a tour of the facility. Each morning there is a staff meeting, and everyone takes turns being in charge of devotions.

Carl will be the outside coordinator in charge of the warehouse workers and those in the wood shop. He really enjoyed building tables for a school and hospital when we were there before. 

Susan will be the inside coordinator helping the volunteers sew hospital gowns for Haiti, Guatemala, and Mexico. In addition, she’ll help with sorting and packing of health kits, bedding kits, layette kits, birthing kits, and sewing kits, making teacher and student school bags, and assembling flood buckets.

Many of the members of Trinity United Methodist Church and our Charles City community have sent donations for us to deliver to MMDC. These include hospital gowns, school bags, baby caps, baby sweaters, T-shirts, toothbrushes, and cash donations for personal dignity kits. We want to express a heartfelt “thank you” for your generosity to MMDC. May God bless you all.

I’ll try to update this blog every few days with information and photos of our activities. 

In Christian Love,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Barrow grocery store prices

 In Barrow, AK, the largest grocery/department store (the ONLY one in this town of 4,200 people on the North Slope) is the AC store. It is the descendent of the Artic Circle supply company. It sells everything from groceries to clothing, from furniture and appliances to ATVs and snow machines, plus it has a small eat-in restaurant.

Everything is flown in during the winter, as are fresh fruits and vegetables year round. In the summer time some things come by barge via the Arctic Ocean from Seattle—like furniture, appliances, and motorcycles.

Most items that are available in the lower 48 states are available above the Arctic Circle if you are willing to pay the price. Most things cost about double or triple what they do in Charles City, Iowa.

Pears are $3.59 lb. Several varieties of apples are available from $3.69 to $3.79 per pound.

Red cabbage=$3.29 lb; Baby carrots=$3.89 lb; Baby bok choy=$3.49 lb; Bok choy=$3.99 lb; Lemongrass=$8.99 lb; Japanese eggplant=$9.69 lb; Snow peas=$8.49 lb; Napa Chinese cabbage=$3.89 lb; Carrots=$2.79 lb; Fresh peas=$3.99 lb; Celery=$2.38 lb. Also shown but prices not visible are corn-on-the-cob, leeks, artichokes, yucca root, red and green bell peppers.

Hass Avocados=$4.79 each; Tomatoes on the vine=$5.59 lb; Tomatoes=$4.99 lb; Avocados=$2.79 each; Hot house tomatoes=$4.99 lb; Cherry tomatoes=$6.59 pint. Also shown but prices not visible are ginger root and garlic bulbs.

AC store brand bread (on the right) is $2.95 per loaf. A package of bagels is $5.55 and Multi-Grain Sandwich Thins are $5.05 per package.

Lean ground beef is $4.79 lb. 

Rib eye steaks are $13.79 lb (that’s 20¢ off per pound for buying a 2.24 lb. value pack) for a total of $30.89.

Fresh Express coleslaw=$3.59; Fresh Express Italian or American salad greens=$6.49; Fresh Express Fancy greens=$6.49; Fresh Express with double carrots=$5.49; Fresh Express Veggie Lovers=$4.99.

Cut up frying chicken=$3.59 lb or $17.81 for 4.69 lbs. A whole chicken is $3.49 lb or $19.16 for 5.49 lbs.

Five lbs. of flour for $10.55.

We were in Barrow at Thanksgiving time, so I was interested in the price of turkey. One of the teachers said that her 20-pound turkey cost her $50. Yes, it was $2.18 per pound. This frozen turkey is $48.61 for 22.3 lbs.

Sparboe eggs are $6.55 per dozen...

...or $20.99 for 5 dozen.

A half gallon of milk is $6.99.

Syrup is normally $6.89, on sale for $6.70.

Cheerios are $6.29.

We can’t buy ATVs in the grocery store in Iowa but maybe at a Wal-Mart Superstore in a big city. This Honda at the Barrow AC Store costs $9,299.

Nacho Cheese Doritos=$9.45 and Tostitos Chunky Salsa is on sale for $5.75.

A 12-pack of Coca-Cola=$11.99.

Children’s and adults’ clothing plus shoes, coats, underwear, and outer wear are available at the AC Store.

A skein of Red Heart yarn is $4.99.

5 lbs. of Tootsie Rolls=$16.99 an a little over 3 lbs. of M&Ms=$17.49.

Furniture and appliances are on display and can be special-ordered.

 More adult clothing and shoes.

Steve Culbertson stands by a snow machine (also known as a snowmobile in the lower 48) for sale at $15, 599. Carl’s Army buddy in Wainwright bought one in Barrow and rode it home 60 miles over the tundra. At bottom is a small child-size ATV for $4,048.

This was a surprise because we just paid $9.99 for the SAME brand at Cabella’s in Medford, MN. This is only $10.19.

Happy Thanksgiving!