Mission Trip to UMCOR West 2011

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A group of seven from Wesley joined five other people for an UMVIM trip to the UMCOR West depot in Salt Lake City during Holy Week 2011 to pack various kits at the depot. We left right after church on Palm Sunday and spent the night in Mesquite, NV. We arrived in Salt Lake on Monday afternoon. We left for home on Good Friday morning and got back to Bakersfield Saturday afternoon after a stay in Las Vegas. Those from Wesley included Pastor Karen, Ruth Shivers, Louise Clay, Kelly Strobel, Sarah Strobel, Lisa Strobel and Nick Strobel. The photographer took A LOT of pictures so this page might take a while to download even though it is just the thumbnails. Click on a thumbnail picture to bring up a larger version in a new window (either in front of or behind this window).

We were joined by four members of Community UMC (in Aptos): Anne + David Scott (long-time former members of Wesley UMC), Marcia Burns, and Shannon Lindahl and one member of Oakhurst New Community UMC, Mike Rawlings. Mike Rawlings met us in Bakersfield and then rode with us to Salt Lake City. The Aptos group flew to Salt Lake City.

The first set of images is of the Episcopal Retreat Center where we stayed. If you are planning on working at the UMCOR West depot, we highly recommend this place. It is about 4 miles from the UMCOR warehouse and is just a few blocks (walking distance) from Temple Square. It is like staying at a nice hotel with a full kitchen but for a very good price and it sure beats sleeping in a sleeping bag on a hard church floor! The center opened in 2008. The rest of the images are of our time at the warehouse or relaxing in the evening at the center. Link to map to UMCOR West -- Link to map to Episcopal Retreat Center.

Episcopal Retreat Center

residence wing hallway

Sarah and Kelly next to their room in the residential wing on the second floor of the Episcopal Retreat Center.

standard room

Most of the rooms have two twin beds and share a bathroom with an adjacent room. A few of the rooms have a single queen bed with a private bathroom. All of the bathrooms are handicap-accessible. Each of the rooms has free wifi access. Sarah and Kelly really enjoyed having their own room!

shared living room

Part of the shared living space of the residential wing on the second floor. Anne Scott and Marcia Burns are next to the windows. At the far end is the dining area where we ate our breakfasts and dinners. The kitchen is to the left of the dining area.


Full kitchen at the retreat center includes a washer & dryer (stacked at far left).


Right side of the kitchen showing the dishwasher, refrigerator and pantry. Lisa is unloading our food items.

wood sculpture

Wood sculpture next to the staircase on the north side. Made of olive wood and is from a wood shop in Bethlehem, Israel.

reception area

Front reception lobby of the retreat center on the first floor. The next image is shows the frieze on the wall. The stairs to the residential area are off the right edge of the image.

frieze in the reception area

This marble relief in the main reception area of the retreat center depicts the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John. It was sculpted by Egide Rombeaux around 1905. Link to full caption.

second frieze

This second marble relief on the first floor of the retreat center depicts the story of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt in the Gospel of Matthew. It was also sculpted by Egide Rombeaux around 1905.

meeting room

One of the meeting rooms on the first floor of the retreat center. Doors at far end go into another meeting room.

meeting room right

Rest of the meeting room from the previous image. The AV cart on the far right has a DVD player + large screen TV.

top floor

At the top of the stairs leading to the residential area looking down to the main reception lobby. You can see shared living room of the third image of this set.

living roof

Living roof as seen from the first bedroom on the second floor. The living roof covers part of the first floor and provides a natural insulation.

first dinner

Our first meal together was dinner on Monday evening. Around the left table are (counter-clockwise from the 9 o'clock position): Mike Rawlings from New Community UMC in Oakhurst, Marcia Burns from Community UMC in Aptos, Ruth Shivers, Pastor Karen, and Louise Clay.

dinner right side

Anne and David Scott at the table with Sarah and Lisa (hidden behind David).

after dinner conversation

After dinner conversation and catching up with the Scotts.

UMCOR West Depot Day 1

UMCOR outside

UMCOR West is adjacent to the Crossroads warehouse. Crossroads is a local relief agency. What items UMCOR receive from United Methodist churches that it cannot ship are given to Crossroads or another helping agency for distribution locally. Offices are on the far right side of the image but we entered the door into the orientation room on the far left.


Orientation began at 9 AM on Tuesday morning.

Brian Diggs greets us

The director of UMCOR West, Brian Diggs, greets each of us.

orientation room

The orientation room. We dropped off the kits we brought with us here.

orientation room

Standing in the doorway next to Ruth is Shannon Lindahl, another member of the Aptos group that joined us.

orientation room

Each wall of the orientation room is painted a different color and three of them have artwork from each of the groups that have worked at the depot. The doorway at the far right of the image leads into a small "kitchen" sort of room.

the "kitchen" next to the orientation room

The small "kitchen" next to the orientation room is where we stored our sack lunches.

last of the walls of the orientation room

The blue wall of the orientation room has the doorway leading into a room that will eventually be a sort of thrift shop.


racks in the UMCOR West warehouse1

Racks in the warehouse right outside of the orientation room, looking left as you're standing in the doorway.

racks in the warehouse1

Looking right as you're standing in the doorway of the orientation room going into the warehouse.

Maika Tukuafu

Maika Tukuafu is Brian Digg's right hand man. He was (still is?) the lay leader at the church that Brian pastored before coming to UMCOR West as its director.


racks of flood kits

Heading left from the orientation room, you will pass by racks of flood kits (all of the materials are in the large 5-gallon white buckets. The slide-up garage-door leads into the adjoining warehouse.

second warehouse

In the second warehouse going to the sewing room at the far end. Still a lot of space to store kits and this one does not have the storage racks yet.

In the sewing room

The sewing room is where work groups can create the bags for the school kits and the clothes for the layette kits. There are four or five sergers as well as yards of fabric and patterns.

rules for the sewing room

Rules for use of the sewing room posted by one of the previous groups. The next few images will show more details about the layette and school kit patterns.

three things that need to be made for the kits

The two items on top are for the layette kit: a simple hooded jacket for a small child and a sleeper. Hanging below the jacket is a bag for the school kits.

school kits bag pattern

The pattern for the school kit bag. The biggest problem we found with the various school bags from various churches would be the handles---many were too small so the bag wouldn't loop over a youth's shoulder. Bags with handles too small had to be discarded.

part one of the jacket pattern

We couldn't readily find the pattern for the small child's jacket so the next few images will show the pattern. Each of the squares of the grid on the table are one inch across. This shows the outer layer of the jacket. Two pieces are cut of this size.

jacket part 2

The inner lining part of the jacket. Two pieces are of this size.

hood part of jacket

The hood part of the jacket. Two pieces are of this size.

finished jacket

A finished small child's jacket.

ruler gives the scale

A yard stick next to the child's jacket gives the scale of the finished product.

hood ties length

The finished hood tie is eleven inches from the end of the rest of the jacket (so add another little bit to attach it to the rest of the jacket).

night gown

Night gown (sleeper) for the layette kit with a yard stick for scale.

night gown pattern

Pattern for the night gown that goes in the layette kit.

warehouse 2 from the sewing room

View of the second warehouse from the sewing room. A lot of space available for more kits in this one.


Pillows next to doorway leading into the first warehouse.

first warehouse heading into third warehouse

In the first warehouse heading toward the third warehouse. The doorway on the left wall going into the third warehouse is almost directly across from the orientation room.

third warehouse

The third warehouse heading to the far end where we worked assembling kits. Between the three warehouses, the UMCOR West depot has about 20,000 square feet of warehouse space.


An old forklift was donated and with some work on the engine (and other donated money) it is now usable.

storage racks in third warehouse

Storage racks in the third warehouse next to where we worked. To the left out of the image is the doorway leading to where the offices are.

kit assembly area

Where we spent most of our time: in the kit assembly area of the third warehouse.

worship area

Next to the kit assembly area, tucked in one corner of the third warehouse is a small chapel space for worship.

directions for three of the kits

Contents for three of the kits (Cleaning Bucket Kit, Sewing Kit, and Bedding Kit) are listed next to a cross made from unusable toothpaste tubes and "UMCOR" made from unusable combs.

Link to Relief Supply Kits UMCOR page.

close-up of the toothpaste cross

Close-up of the toothpaste tube cross and UMCOR combs.

sombrero of toothpaste

Sombrero of toothpaste tubes.

Pallet Prayer

Pete Smith from FUMC in Golden, CO composed this prayer that is now by tradition prayed at the completion of every pallet. It reads:
Most Gracious and Loving God,
we come together to do your work: One item at a
time, One kit at a time, One box at a time, One
pallet at a time, to serve One person at a time, who
is, One from the multitude of your children in need
across this world. Amen

examples of usable combs

Examples of usable combs: large sturdy combs---no pocket ones or picks. The comb must be at least 8 inches long.

Four other kits

Contents for the other four kits (School Kit, Layette Kit, Birthing Kit, and Health Kit). One day one we assembled and checked Health Kits.

Link to Relief Supply Kits UMCOR page.

toothpaste cross

United Methodist cross and Holy Spirit flame made from toothpaste boxes.

coffee room next to kit assembly area

Coffee room next to the kit assembly area. On the other side of the right wall is Brian Diggs office.

back to the orientation room

Back to the orientation room for a brief history of UMCOR followed by lunch.

Note: the depot can handle up to 25 people in a group. Larger groups are split up so some people will work at Crossroads or a Habitat for Humanity build or the Habitat Re-store, or another local relief agency. Summers are booked a year or two in advance. Falls and winters are usually easily available.

materials for the health kit

Contents of the Health Kit that will be stuffed into a one-gallon zip-lock plastic bag:

  1. 1 hand towel (15x25 inches up to 17x27 inches, no kitchen towels)
  2. 1 wash cloth
  3. 1 comb (large and sturdy, not pocket sized)
  4. 1 nail file or fingernail clippers (no emery board or toenail clippers---of the two usual clippers, the toenail ones are larger and unfortunately, cannot be used)
  5. 1 bath-size bar of soap (3 oz or larger)
  6. 1 toothbrush (must be single brushes only in the original wrapper, no child-size brushes, and no brushes with local business or dentist names/addresses on them)
  7. 6 adhesive plastic strip sterile bandages ("bandaids")
  8. Toothpaste (6.4oz size) BUT it canNOT have an expiration date stamped on the tube. Because such toothpaste is not commonly available in stores in the U.S., churches will include $1 in every kit for the UMCOR depot to get special tubes without the expiration date on them.

health kit ready for wrapping up

A Health Kit before it is wrapped up. This one will have a nail file instead of fingernail clippers.

wrapped up health kit

Roll the contents up like a burrito with the two ends folded inward and stuff them into an one-gallon sealed plastic bag.

example of an unusable comb

An example of a comb (hair pick) that cannot be used. Combs that cannot be used are put into a discard pile that will be sent over to Crossroads or other local relief agency in the Salt Lake City area.

24 kits to a box

Twenty-four (24) kits are put into one box. Mike Rawlings from Oakhurst New Community UMC was our boxer.

one of the assembly lines for the health kits

Lisa and Nick Strobel and Shannon Lindahl were on one of the assembly lines for the Health Kits.

Other assembly line

Anne Scott, Louise Clay and Sarah Strobel (almost hidden behind Louise) work at the other assembly line.

gathering the dollar bills

Marcia Burns and Ruth Shivers search health kits assembled by local churches for dollar bills to purchase the specially-marked tubes of toothpaste. The toothpaste tubes canNOT have an expiration date stamped on them so UMCOR has to purchase the toothpaste.

getting ready for the pallet prayer

Our first completed pallet of Health Kits: 28 boxes with 24 kits/box (or a total of 672 kits). Maika Tukuafu (center) led us in the Pallet Prayer as we all laid hands on the pallet.

shrink-wrapping the pallet for storage

Mike Rawlings shrink-wraps the pallet so it will stay together when it is lifted up high onto one of the storage racks.

End of day game of Spinners

We stopped work in the depot at about 4:30 so that Brian Diggs and Maika Tukuafu could close down and lock up the depot by 5 PM. We had a home-cooked meal at the Episcopal Retreat Center and then relaxed with a game of Spinners (a domino game).

End of day game of Spinners

End of day game of Spinners at the Episcopal Retreat Center.

UMCOR West Depot Day 2

Kelly models the toothpaste sombrero

Kelly Strobel models the toothpaste tube sombrero. Very stylish but not that comfortable so it stayed on for just a few minutes.

Another pallet completed!

Another pallet of Health Kits was completed on day two.

pallet of health kits

Pallet of Health Kits.

We worked just half the day on day two. The afternoon was spent sight seeing.

group shot for the Pallet Prayer

The whole gang gathers for the Pallet Prayer. Left to right: Lisa Strobel, Nick Strobel, Sarah Strobel, Louise Clay (almost hidden), Ruth Shivers, Kelly Strobel, Mike Rawlings, Anne Scott (almost hidden), Marcia Burns, David Scott, Karen Stoffers-Pugh, Shannon Lindahl.

UMCOR West Depot Day 3

School Kit contents

On day three we packed School Kits. Contents include:

  1. 1 pair blunt (rounded tip) scissors
  2. 3 pads or loose leaf of 8.5 x 11 inch ruled paper up to a total max of 250 pages
  3. 1 30-centimeter (12-inch) ruler that must include the metric scale. No local business addresses or labels can be on the rulers or pencils or sharpeners or other items.
  4. 1 hand-held pencil sharpener with an attached container to catch the pencil shavings
  5. 6 UNsharpened pencils with erasers
  6. 1 eraser of size 2.5inches long
  7. 1 box of 24 crayons (and ONLY 24 crayons, no more, no less)
  8. All items packed in the fabric School Kit bag (select the link to view the pattern)

school kit without the flag

Notice any difference between this picture and the previous one? Look at the crayon box...

Because these kits may be shipped to countries where displaying the United States flag could get one and/or their family killed, images of the US flag must be removed from any items we send or be blacked out with permanent marker. While this might anger some patriotic church members, UMCOR does not want to bring harm to any people it helps. For similar reasons, items cannot have any religious symbols on them (notice that the UMCOR labels on the boxes do not have the UMC Cross and Flame symbol).

Also, the reason why local business addresses or labels cannot be on any of the items is that UMCOR doesn't want to imply special treatment of some recipients over others by giving specially marked items to some and not to others (i.e., specially marked items could be looked upon as a sign of special favor or value that some might want to steal).

School Kit bags need to be wide enough to easily fit three ruled-paper notebooks rotated 90 degrees as shown and a 30-cm (12-in) ruler.

width of school kit bag

A School Kit bag of proper width can easily fit a 30-cm (12-in) ruler lengthwise.

folded up school kit bag

The School Kit bag should also be long enough so that when the notebooks and other items are stuffed inside that the bag can fold over by about half way as shown here.

MINIMUM length of handles

Handles of the School Kit bag must be attached on the broad side of the bag and make loops that are at least 7.5 inches high (this bag shows the minimum size handles). Handles of that size can fit over a teenager's shoulder comfortably. Sarah and Kelly tested some of the bag handles we had questions about.

another pallet of school kits completed!

A pallet of School Kits is completed. Each box has 12 School Kits and there are 28 boxes per pallet (= 336 kits on each pallet). Here we gather with Maika and Brian for the Pallet Prayer.

lunch on day three

Lunch on day three at the UMCOR West Depot.

and another school kit pallet finished!

We completed another School Kit pallet in the afternoon. Are we efficient or what?

Kelly shrink wraps the pallet

Kelly shrink wraps the School Kit pallet while Mike supervises.

assembly line for flood bucket kits

While one group finished packing more School Kits, another group got to work on Cleaning Bucket Kits (formerly known as "Flood Bucket Kits"). Each Cleaning Bucket Kit contains:

  1. 5-gallon bucket with resealable lid. Since these kits stay in the U.S., advertising on the outside are acceptable. Buckets canNOT have stored chemicals such as paint or pool cleaner.
  2. Liquid laundry detergent up to 50 oz total (so either two 25-oz bottles or one 50-oz bottle)
  3. Liquid household cleaner: 12-16-oz cleaner that can be mixed with water and NO sprays
  4. 16-28 oz bottle of dish soap
  5. 1 can of air freshener aerosol or pump
  6. 1 aerosol or pump 6-14 ounces of insect repellant spray with protective cover
  7. 1 scrub brush with a plastic or wooden handle
  8. 18 cleaning wipes (handi wipes or reusable wipes) removed from the packaging. NO terry cleaning towels
  9. 7 sponges removed from the wrapper
  10. 5 scouring pads removed from the wrapper
  11. 50 clothes pins removed from the packaging
  12. Two 50-foot or one 100-foot clothesline of cotton or plastic line
  13. 24-roll heavy-duty trash bags removed from the box
  14. 5 dust masks
  15. 2 pair of disposable kitchen gloves, rubber or latex, removed from the packaging
  16. 1 pair of work gloves, cotton or leather. All items put into the bucket and sealed.

Link to more details.

other end of the assembly line for Cleaning Kits

Start end of the assembly line for the Cleaning Bucket Kits.

items for the Cleaning Bucket Kit

Items for the Cleaning Bucket Kit. Ruth Shivers was especially clean to work on the Cleaning Bucket Kits because of her work in the Katrina clean-up. UMCOR is still there working on clean up there!

end of Cleaning Bucket Kit items

End of the assembly line for the Cleaning Bucket Kits.

Cleaning Bucket Kit pallet

Wa-hoo! We filled a Cleaning Bucket pallet of 36 kits.

Pallet Prayer for the pallet of Cleaning Bucket Kits

Pallet prayer for the Cleaning Bucket pallet we completed. We did a lot of praying during our time there!

pallet prayer including Nick

This picture proves that Nick was also there.

final group shot

A final group shot in front of the additional School Kit pallet we completed plus another Cleaning Bucket Kit pallet.

By the end of the mission trip we had packed: 2280 Health Kits, 1008 School Kits and 72 Cleaning Bucket Kits.

Maika inspects a birthing kit from Aptos

Maika inspects one of the Layette Kits that Aptos Community brought at the request of Anne Scott to make sure they were doing it correctly. Maika said it looked fine!

our artists

Each workgroup is invited to put some sort of artwork on the wall in the orientation room. Kelly and Sarah volunteered to be our artists. They are standing under their work. The next image shows their work.

Wesley/Aptos/Oakhurst art for the UMCOR wall

The artwork for the Wesley-Aptos-Oakhurst workgroup, April 18-22, 2011.

UMCOR West Depot Day 4

Friday morning worship

Friday morning (Good Friday) we had a simple worship service with reflection on what we experienced during the week and sharing of the bread and cup. Brian Diggs led the service.

Good Friday service

Preparation for the time of worship.


Brian Diggs shows the stole given to him by one of the workgroups.

communion servers

Pastor Karen and Rev. Brian Diggs were our communion servers.

serving communion

Sharing of the bread and cup. After the worship service, we headed out for the long drive home.

End of Slides!

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Wesley United Methodist Church -- Bakersfield, CA