More than 20 volunteers gathered at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (6632 Chapman Highway, Knoxville) last Wednesday (August 15, 2012) to pack 92 boxes of quilts, Personal Care Kits, School Supplies and Baby Care Kits that will be sent to people in need around the world through a partnership with Lutheran World Relief.

“Many hands make light work,” seemed to be the phrase that floated around the room as members and friends of the church set to the task just as they have for many years before.  With supplies lining the table and workers talking and laughing while they packed, 54 boxes were packed in just over an hour and another 38 boxes of soap waited nearby to be weighed, labeled and shipped.

Each of the kits contains a set of items prescribed by Lutheran World Relief, based on the needs identified by local partners in the area the kits get shipped to.  Throughout the year members of Gloria Dei purchase the various items to be put in the kits and raise funds in order to make bulk purchases through local retail stores.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church charter member Jan Cruze coordinates the effort with the help of the congregation’s Women’s ministry known as WELCA (Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).  “We couldn’t do it without everyone’s help” reminds Cruze, “and I particularly miss Rosalie’s presence this year” Cruze said speaking of Gloria Dei Member Rosalie Stutzman who was recently diagnosed with cancer and unable to be present for the packing event, but still made sure that certain necessary details were taken care of.

Rosalie Stutzman rallies her grandson, Charlie Stutzman (also a member of Gloria Dei), to collect empty boxes, packing tape and other packing supplies that are needed to ship the materials.  And once the 92 boxes are packed, Charlie Stutzman loads them up and drives them to Greenville, Tennessee where they are unloaded into a trailer that transports the boxes with those packed by other Lutheran congregations in the region to the Lutheran World Relief warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland.

“It’s a great fellowship event for those that help,” reports Eric Luedtke, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.  “With the many conversations and abundant laughter, it never feels like anyone is working that hard and yet when you think about the number of kits we pack, you quickly realize that our small effort impacts the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people around the world. That’s pretty incredible.”

And just because the boxes are packed and trucked away, the work doesn’t end.  The WELCA group will start right up again in September tying quilts, and working with local retail store managers to begin collecting the items for next year’s care packages.

“It’s a year-round community effort.” says Cruze, “It can be exhausting at times, but it is also very rewarding to think about what God can do through the hands of our congregation.”