To make a difference after 9/11, my volunteer center would need some help from above.
September 11th, 2001. My 10th graders and I sat glued to the news, stunned by the horrific scene. A high school math teacher in Bloomington, Indiana, I didn’t know anybody in New York. But I felt strongly compelled to help.
Straight after work I headed to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center, a mission outreach program I volunteered for in Chatham, Illinois. The center specialized in sending kits filled with anything from hygienic goods to school supplies all across the country in times of crisis. That night, all the volunteers were in a frenzy putting together emergency health kits.
“We don’t have as many kits on hand as we’d like,” the program director said. Unfortunately, she and her team of volunteers had devoted the past few months to sorting through a large, anonymous donation received in April—a semi-truck trailer packed with a jumble of supplies, but none that the center could use for their kits. Volunteers had painstakingly organized the materials from the shipment, stored and labeled everything in separate boxes.
Now we had to shift gears completely. I got to work, stuffing health kits full of soap, clean towels, Band-Aids and disinfectant, all the while praying for those affected by the tragedy.
The program director stopped our production the next morning. “I just got off the phone with volunteers in New York,” she said. “I asked what they needed most.”
They had two specific requests. New York Police Department and volunteer firemen at Ground Zero were working around the clock to save lives. After days of walking in the rubble, in all weather conditions, they desperately needed firemen’s boots and heavy-duty rain jackets.
Once again my fellow volunteers and I shifted gears. A moving company in the area offered one of their trucks and personnel to haul our goods to New York City, free of charge. All day we moved boxes from our storage area to the truck, this time certain that our efforts had gone exactly where they were needed.
That anonymous donation we’d received in April, the semi-truck trailer of supplies? It was filled to the brim with firemen’s boots and heavy duty raincoats—now sorted and packed into separate boxes, ready to ship immediately.