DEERWOOD -- A Deerwood church has started a movement to clothe impoverished children in Honduras, one diaper at a time.
And they need your help, or more specifically, your old T-shirts.
For the past year and a half, the women at Salem Lutheran Church have been making diapers out of T-shirts for babies in Honduras, enlisting the help last year of other churches in the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA. Salem Lutheran has now delivered more than 4,000 diapers to Honduras. The First Lady of Honduras herself told the Deerwood church members who traveled to Honduras last spring that they could use 50,000 diapers.
That means more T-shirts are needed to make the diapers.
Audrey Anderson and Arlene Stomberg, both of Deerwood, started the project. They cut 16-inch by 15-inch pieces of fabric from underneath the sleeves of the T-shirt, which folds out to a 16-inch-by 30-inch piece. This fabric is folded into thirds and then sewn and serged and is ready to be used as a diaper. The women started making layettes for an area doctor who was doing medical mission work in Haiti. It was too cost prohibitive for the women to buy cloth diapers so they found the pattern for the T-shirt diapers.
A 15-year-old Honduran girl posed with her newborn baby and several items made by Salem Lutheran Church members from Deerwood. Women from the church gave the baby diapers made from T-shirts, a quilt and a layette set.
Greg Meyer, associate in ministry at Salem Lutheran, approached the church women and asked if they would make the diapers for Honduran children, where he was traveling to perform mission work.
The project became "Diapers for Honduras," a ministry that not only recycles old T-shirts, but provides diapers for children who otherwise would not wear them. Twenty-one Salem Lutheran members, including Meyer, his wife, Diane, and their 17-year-old daughter, Kate, traveled to Honduras last February to hand deliver the diapers and other handmade items from the church volunteers. They worked with the Christian Commission for Development to build a school in an Honduran village.
Meyer and other volunteers went back a few months later to volunteer again. He plans to return to Honduras for 15 days in October with Kate, a senior at Brainerd High School, and then he will join other church members once again to make the trip in February. While in Honduras they perform many necessary projects. This year they will continue working on a self-sustaining farm built as a refuge for poor women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
How to help
Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood is collecting adult-sized T-shirts to be sewn into diapers for babies in Honduras. The goal is 50,000 diapers.
T-shirt donations may be dropped off at the Deerwood church. T-shirts should be 50-100 percent cotton, size large or larger, new or used, and of any color.
Monetary donations are needed so church volunteers can mail the boxes of T-shirts to Honduras. To make a monetary donation, send checks to Salem Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 100, Deerwood, MN 56444. Make sure to specify that the money be used for the Honduran Mission Fund.
For more information, call the church at (218) 534-3309.
Those who wish to make diapers for Honduran babies may find the pattern at the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA, Web site at www.nemnsynod.org. Click on the Synod Hunger Appeal News link.
Meyer, and many of the church's 270 members, have been deeply touched by the people of Honduras.
"God's called us to be there," said Meyer. "There's so much need and they're wonderful people. We have a real working partnership with them. The need is real and we're getting it where it needs to go."
The church has several fund-raisers to fund their projects in Honduras. They have paid for surgeries for two men and paid the $6 hospital bill for many poor women who delivered babies. They shipped two large loads of books to a Honduran school and an air compressor for a dental clinic. Church members are selling fair trade goods, like coffee, tea and cashews, that pay fair wages to the low-income artisans and farmers in impoverished countries who made them. They've been collecting donated T-shirts to make diapers and monetary donations to pay to ship items to Honduras. They also need flannel sheets to make adult diapers for adults suffering from AIDS and other illnesses.
The Deerwood church also does work at home to help disadvantaged people in its own community. A church member purchased a nearby laundry store and donated it to the church. It became Salem West, a store full of donated items that church members give to area families in need. They work through referrals by social service agencies, often helping to furnish apartments and homes for victims of domestic abuse or other people going through a crisis.
"It's incredible what's happened here," said Meyer. "This church has become all about outreach."
On Wednesday, about a dozen women gathered at the church, surrounded by piles of garbage bags full of T-shirts, to cut out diapers. They don't have a specific day that they get together to make diapers but will do it when they have an ample supply of T-shirts.
"These ladies just started something that's the coolest thing," said Meyer. "It was just one of those God things. I love it when that stuff happens. It wasn't planned."
"It's a neat way of recycling," said Arlene Radach, as she cut out diapers Wednesday.
"It's helping the needy, that's why I do it," said Myrtle Bollenbacher, Crosby."
"Because of the simplicity of it, it's something everyone can do," said Arlene Anderson.
"It makes it fun to work with people, to laugh and joke," said Debbie MacKay, Crosby, of making diapers. "It's nice to see because most people in the United States use disposable diapers."
The Meyer family, which includes their daughters, Kate and Kellee, who is 19, has become so moved by their work in Honduras that they are trying to adopt an 11-year-old Honduran boy named Adonay, a street child they met while they were there. Adoption isn't easy in Honduras, so they are trying to at least get Adonay into a private boarding school in February, the start of the school year there, while they work to adopt him.
"Our whole priorities have totally changed," said Meyer, of his family. "Kate looks at labels and won't buy clothes made in Honduras because she's seen how hard the young girls work."
The church also is collecting fast food toys and other small toys for Meyer to bring to children in Honduras when he goes in October. Most children don't have toys. Meyer said he saw one young girl playing with an old cup. He brought fruit snacks to hand out to children on his last visit to Honduras and the children all folded and saved the wrappers.
Meyer said any church group or people traveling to Honduras may contact the Deerwood church. They would like to send along with them items, like diapers, for the poor.
On Saturday, Gabriel Colindres, a Honduran who has become a friend of the Meyers, will arrive in Minnesota for a visit.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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