Jackson church project to help Ugandans

Sunday, July 8, 2007
Pat Hill, left, and Bernice Baldwin sorted shampoo and soap Saturday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Jackson to put into tote bags for Ugandan orphans. The collection event, with an auction, food, and music, was for Hope Seeds. (Kit Doyle)

More than 150 people congregated Saturday on the grounds of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jackson to be part of a community project aimed at helping Ugandans become self-sufficient.

"Mission Possible: Uganda Orphans" raised money and collected supplies for Hope Seeds, a national organization that sends quality garden seeds to help people in starving nations grow their own food. The community was asked to donate necessities for daily life: gardening and hand construction tools, hygiene products, sewing supplies, school supplies, children's summer clothes, shoes, tarps, tents and cots.

Packed boxes were transported to a trailer that will fill a standard 40-by-8-foot shipping container.

Church spokesman Judge Gary Kamp said the community response was "uplifting. We won't have trouble getting the cargo container filled."

More than a month ago, committee members began recruiting volunteers and donations from the community with support from almost 20 businesses and another 10 individuals. Committee member Jane Boren said, "Everything was donated. All we had to buy were chips. This is a chance for churches to unite and bear our brother's burden."

Saturday's effort at filling the need was the main thrust, but committee members plan on future opportunities for the mission, and donations will be accepted until December.

Hope Seeds CEO and founder Mike Mueller was under a canopy selling plants and answering questions about his charitable organization. He splits his time between Bertrand, Mo., and Bradenton, Fla., where he and his wife, Jean, own a nursery and vegetable/seed business.

Hope Seeds got started almost a decade ago when Mueller's church in Bradenton was collecting clothes to send to Haiti and sent some seeds along too. As a result, recipients requested tomato, watermelon and cucumber seeds.

"There was a need for good vegetable seeds," he said.

After a while, the requests for seed became overwhelming and Mueller formed Hope Seeds.

Volunteers in St. Paul's fellowship hall packaged donated items arranged on tables. Baked goods, homegrown vegetables, a quilt auction and educational material on Uganda's widows and orphans were set up in the rear of the hall.

Jean Mueller was directing volunteers on filling tote bags with hygiene supplies, a blanket and seeds. The bag design is utilitarian. "My husband knows a missionary in Sudan who saw the children wearing mesh bags as clothing. It was chafing their skin. He asked me to do something." She admitted to creating the tote bag that can double as a sundress.

In Uganda, it is not uncommon for a widow to care for more children than her own, according to Rudy Schaser, executive director of With God's Little Ones, a group of orphanages that will benefit from Mission Possible. Schaser travels to Uganda three times a year.

"Hope Seeds will be literally keeping people alive," he said. "I see children who don't eat for one, two days. Their systems are shutting down. They lie on an earthen floor at night and after a widow will wash the children's clothes at night she will cover the children with her dirty dress. Many girls drop out of school when they reach puberty because there are no latrines at school and have no privacy in taking care of personal hygiene. These girls are sometimes assaulted on their way to retrieve water. We try to build boreholes so they can have clean water in a safe area."

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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