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Chester County Press

A day of service for the community and the world

01/21/2019 12:31PM ● By J. Chambless

Kathy Hrekno, operations director at Project C.U.R.E., explains the day's work to volunteers from Unionville High School.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

From helping neighbors in Chester County to serving people around the world, students from the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District stepped up on Jan. 21 to help live out the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as part of the National Day of Service.

There's a long tradition of schools in the district turning the day of remembrance for Dr. King into a day of activities to help others. Beginning at 9 a.m., students of all ages excitedly began working in various service projects across the region.

At Hillendale Elementary School, Unionville High School students and children from Hillendale helped sort and package meal kits for Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that provides food for the weekend for elementary-aged children who might otherwise go hungry. Principal Michael Audevard said the goal was to pack 213 backpacks on Monday that will be given to the 71 children served by the Kennett Square branch of the organization. The focus was on breakfast, with packaged oatmeal, cereal bars, milk and more put into sealed bags for distribution. With the bags quickly getting packed and completed, younger students were hard at work drawing bookmarks to be given out with the food.

At Chadds Ford Elementary School, students and parents will be collecting food all week for their sister school, Mitchell Elementary. The Mitchell’s Kids’ Choice Pantry allows students who wouldn't otherwise have access to food on weekends to bring home pre-packaged essentials.

Patton Middle School had three large looms set up for volunteers to weave plastic strips into sleeping mats that will be given to homeless people in Philadelphia. Families were also assembling Children's Survival Kits for young children arriving at the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County.

At Pocopson Elementary School, families created parcels for children in local homeless shelters by knotting together fleece blankets and pairing them with a new book and a stuffed animal.

Unionville Elementary students and parents made knotted fleece blankets for children with long-term illnesses at Nemours/A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children.

At the West Grove distribution center for Project C.U.R.E., five Unionville High School students joined other volunteers for a morning of sorting donated medical supplies. Operations director Kathy Hrenko welcomed the students and explained the process. When surplus medical supplies arrive from hospitals, manufacturers and health facilities across the nation, they are in large boxes and are not sorted. Volunteer teams work every day at Project C.U.R.E. to take each donated item and find a labeled bin for it. That way, when a specific item is needed, it can easily be found and packed for shipment to any one of more than 130 countries.

“The next container is going out to Rwanda tomorrow,” Hrenko said. “The next one up may be going to Armenia or Kenya, and maybe Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Everything from bandages and syringes to X-ray machines and ultrasound equipment is sorted, checked and verified before it is sent abroad, so that clinics and hospitals on the receiving end know they will be getting exactly what is needed. In places where medical supplies are scarce or otherwise non-existent, something as simple as clean bandages are vital. Expensive items such as hospital beds and diagnostic equipment would only be a dream without Project C.U.R.E.

Each 40-foot shipping container that goes out has a value of $300,000 to $500,000, Hrenko said. If the items weren't donated, they would be sent to landfills.

“Volunteers are always needed,” Hrenko said. “We get groups from Kennett High School, Unionville High School, Avon Grove and Oxford, as well as local universities like Lincoln University, the University of Delaware and others, corporate groups, churches, and around 30 Rotary Clubs. All the work is done by community volunteers. We literally couldn't do this work without them.”

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To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].