Orphan Grain Train spreads goods worldwide through the faith of volunteers08/15/2022 05:21PM ● By Steven Hoffman
A cavernous warehouse in Jennersville houses donated living supplies destined for people in need all over the world.
Manager and branch founder Cliff Kraft, of West Brandywine, oversees the operation of this faith-based mission known as the Middle Atlantic Branch Orphan Grain Train. The parent organization has more than 25 branches all over the United States, of which the Middle Atlantic Branch is one.
The warehouse itself is impressively large. Owned and rented out by Peter Kjellerup of Dansko, it is stacked shoulder-high with huge quantities of donated clothing, food, medical supplies, household items and refurbished bicycles. Orphan Grain Train receives its donations from all over Pennsylvania area and beyond. The goods are destined for nations as far away as Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Ukraine, and as close as Kentucky and New Jersey.
Kraft, 89, is dedicated to the continued operation of the Orphan Grain Train, and has been so for the past 20 years. He said the operations of the Mid-Atlantic Branch are inspired by the faith of its volunteers who act on the teachings of Christ and the Gospels.
He told the story of his founding of the Mid-Atlantic branch. According to Kraft, he had a friend who was interested in becoming a missionary. When the missionary returned to the U.S., this friend spoke of his experiences, including with Orphan Grain Train, to Kraft and to the church group of which Kraft is a part. So impressed was Kraft that he moved on the suggestion to develop a local Orphan Grain Train project that he proceeded.
His decision to proceed, he said, was divinely inspired. “The Lord kept working on me,” he said.
The parent Orphan Grain Train mission was founded by a minister, Rev. Ray Wilke after he visited Latvia in 1992 and saw the need for spiritual and humanitarian need. According to the ministry’s newsletter, “This vision blossomed into a ministry and movement that has sent more than 3,489 semi-loads of supplies to needy people here and home and around the world.”
Kraft said the name, Orphan Grain Train, came from the actual functions of how the mission began: It was to help children in orphanages; it provided grain (as a metaphor for living necessities); and it was originally brought by train. The name endures, but today the goods go to more than orphans; the substance of what is provided is much wider than food; and the transportation is primarily container trucks and ships.
Containers -- in the industrial sense -- are huge bins that travel on the backs of trucks and then are transferred intact onto ships for transfer abroad.
Everyone who participates in Orphan Grain Train, including Kraft, is a volunteer.
The operations at the Jennersville warehouse are complex but, according to Kraft, run rather smoothly. On Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and second and fourth Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. his team of volunteers comes in to receive donations, sort and tag them by categories and inventory them.
Special arrangements for groups who need alternate times for donations or other activities can be arranged.
So detailed is the sorting that it goes as far as identifying objects by gender, type and size. They are packed by category in apple boxes donated by food stores, stacked up and later picked by container trucks for transport to ships. Apple boxes, Kraft said, work well because they are sturdy, uniform in size and stack well in the containers.
This year, for example, the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Grain Train exported two truck shipments: one in March and the other in May. A crew from Lincoln University helped load 1,230 boxes and 31 bicycles in March.
Many churches, schools, individuals and businesses are committed to Orphan Grain Train and its mission, and this includes providing financial support.
The Church of the Advent in Kennett Square, for example, is holding a community-wide donation day on Oct. 15. The public is invited to donate goods to a variety of organizations that will be there that provide help for people in need.
Kraft grew up in Ohio and is a graduate of Ohio State University. He served in the U.S. Army and was in the horticulture business. He later founded the Kraft business consulting firm in Exton. When he retired, he said he could not have anticipated where his faith would take him.
The Orphan Grain Train warehouse is on Federal Road in the complex that includes Dansko and the Southern Chester Chamber of Commerce off Baltimore Pike in Jennersville. The mission’s office is in Malvern and can be reached at 610-644-4508. The website is www.ogt.org.
Kraft said this about his commitment and current life’s work: “Jesus has supplied all this to us. How do we get it to people in need? It’s just helping people in need. That’s what we’re all about.”