The Brethren Disaster Ministries of the Southern Ohio District was formed in the early 1970’s by several Church of the Brethren congregations throughout western and southern Ohio. This ministry was started with the understanding that natural disasters can destroy communities and devastate families in a matter of moments. The Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) works to help the most vulnerable survivors pick up the pieces and rebuild their homes.
One of the largest projects the BDM works on each year is the collection of Church World Service Kits throughout the Southern Ohio District. The collection of CWS Kits started out as a small ministry by Dick and Pat Via and has grown into a large project involving over 20 churches. Dick and Pat led this ministry for almost years, encouraging volunteers to collect kit components, sew school bags and other items needed for baby kits and provide speakers to congregations.
Pat said their mission statement is simple. “We believe that we are to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13). We believe that God has called us to respond to a crisis before a disaster happens.”
The Brethren Disaster Ministries responds each year by hosting several CWS Kit Gatherings. Many people from around Ohio gather for these hands-on volunteer opportunities to assemble the kits and then ship them to the Church of the Brethren Warehouse in New Windsor, Maryland.
The kit collections for the Brethren Disaster Ministries in Southern Ohio are impressive. They host special events to raise money to buy the items they need to make CWS Kits. They have volunteers serving as buyers, searching the internet and stores for the best deals. They have other volunteers who write grants and appeals for in-kind and monetary donations. The Disaster Ministries has a small storage facility and has even identified a trucking company to donate a truck to ship the kits to New Windsor.
During 2018, the group of dedicated volunteers assembled 4,011 CWS Hygiene Kits and 2,500 CWS School Kits.
“The Southern Ohio Disaster Ministries is a fantastic organization. Each January they contact Church World Service to see what greatest needs for kits are that year. They always focus their efforts for year and assemble thousands of CWS Kits. That is outstanding!” said Matthew Stevens, Director of Congregational Giving for Church World Service.
Judy and Burt Wolf have been volunteering with Brethren Disaster Ministries for many years but have been serving as the leaders for the past five years. “We have so much and God wants us to share. Being a teacher, I see so many students with abundance. I have also traveled to different countries and I have visited with kids that don’t have a lot. When I hand them a CWS School Kit their faces light up and you know that you are sharing a small part of God’s love,” said Judy. By sharing their love and putting their faith into action, Brethren Disaster Ministries provides hope to communities and families.
Church World Service is thankful for all of the many volunteers who make CWS Kits each year. The generosity of our volunteers and donors help to provide thousands of CWS Kits to people in need around the world. Our spring kit depots will be open soon. Check out cwskits.org/depots to find a kit depot close to you. Thanks!