Volunteering to help load supplies in the Lutheran World Relief trailer Wednesday morning at Trinity Lutheran Church was almost like helping family for Isabel Valencia.
The LWR program is emphasizing assistance to victims of the Chile earthquake and the Syrian refugees in Europe this year.
Valencia, a Good Samaritan Center employee, was born in Chile and not far from where the 8.5-magnitude earthquake hit in September. Her parents and other family members still live in Chile.
“When there is a personal connection, it really is cool,” said Karen Morrison, Wichita, Lutheran World Relief coordinator for Kansas.
When the earthquake hit, a friend called Valencia almost immediately.
It was a big relief when she called her family and her mom answered right away. They were all OK, but the shaking wasn’t over.
The aftershocks — more than 570 of them in all — kept coming.
“You can feel every five minutes the movement. I talk to my mom and dad every week, every Sunday (and) they say they are just very tired to stand it every five, 10 minutes,” Valencia said. “Imagine you just walk in and feel the movement; you’re eating and feel the movement.”
She recalls one damaging earthquake during her childhood.
“I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old, there was one that knocked a wall down. It was very big. We were very scared,” Valencia said.
She came to the United States in 1991 with her husband and moved to Hays later. She started working at the Good Samaritan Center in 2006 and is a restorative aide.
Members of Trinity Lutheran Church loaded boxes of quilts, baby-care kits and personal-care items, including approximately 1,500 bars of soap into the trailer.
A number of the quilts were made by the women of the church.
The church also serves as a drop-off for individuals and western Kansas churches’ donations, which are then loaded on the trailer bound for a warehouse in Minnesota for sorting and distribution. There are four stops across the state during the annual event: Hays, Wichita, Salina and Topeka, Morrison said.
“The Lutheran Church has been doing this for years,” she said.
As coordinator, Morrison arranges for the truck and trailer and helps facilitate pick-ups.
She also keeps track of how many boxes and how much poundage goes on the truck.
Morrison estimated the Hays site would have about the same amount as last year, 12,000 to 13,000 pounds, and the state more than 50,000 pounds.
“That’s a lot of quilts, and a lot of school kids (who volunteer to make tie blankets),” Morrison said. “It’s very impressive to see because when you’re just working in your own little church, you think, ‘We’re not getting that much done.’ But when you come and see what happens on the truck from all the little churches bringing it all together, then you see how much is happening.”
Trinity member and Good Samaritan Center employee Kathy Moravek has helped with the project for approximately a dozen years.
“Everybody’s a volunteer,” she said. “The ladies always have homemade desserts, chili, coffee, so when people come through and donate, they can park and go downstairs and have a treat.”
Mitzi Krause makes the chili every year.
“It’s just two roasters full. It’s not that big a deal,” Krause said. “A lot of people come back year-after-year, so it’s kind of like reunion time.”
Valencia hasn’t been to Chile since 2011, but plans to go in December.
“This is very special. This touches my heart very very much,” Valencia said. “For me, this is beautiful that all these people can help someone else.”