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Churches can meet needs through Tools & Blankets program

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMCOR

Church World Services blankets are distributed worldwide to places such as Sudan's Darfur region.

March 6, 2006

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Last spring, the Rev. Bill Alvey from Park United Methodist Church and the Rev. Stephen Broache from Central Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, Ohio, had a conversation.

The two churches share a parking lot, and both congregations wanted to do something to help people in need.

Familiar with the Church World Service Tools & Blankets program, the two pastors decided to “blanket” the parking lot.

The lot measured roughly 104 by 108 feet, and a CWS blanket is 62 by 81 inches. That meant the two congregations had to raise enough money to buy 320 blankets.

The blanket drive began on Mother’s Day and ended on Father’s Day. The two small congregations raised funds for 309 blankets.

Congregations around the United Methodist Church and in other denominations are using the Tools & Blankets program as a way to help people in need. CWS, an ecumenical agency, is a partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

In Rochester, N.Y., the Fairport-Perinton Lay Clergy Council makes a community-wide Tools & Blankets offering a part of its annual programming, raising more than $8,000 in 2005 and almost $10,000 the year before.

One congregation used the theme, “Blanket the World with Love,” emphasizing the personal aspect of the program, which allows the giver to offer comfort to someone in need across the world or closer to home. Throughout Advent, a CWS blanket was draped in the rear of the sanctuary so people could pin their contributions on it.

At another Perinton congregation, a speaker and her daughter demonstrated the many ways the blanket could be used in a disaster situation — as a tent, a partition for privacy, a knapsack or bedding. The speaker concluded by wrapping the blanket around her daughter, and together they walked down the aisle of the church with baskets for donations.

A third congregation pitched the blanket as a tent with a volunteer sitting in front of it, ready to hand out CWS brochures and answer questions about the many places the blankets had been sent over the past year.

First United Methodist Church in DeSoto, Texas, raised $935 during Lent to build a house as part of the CWS housing project in Afghanistan’s Shomali Valley. Families received a calendar with suggested daily amounts to contribute through the Lenten season.

To assist local churches with raising donations, CWS has a variety of congregational materials for the program, including:

  • a CWS Tools & Blankets Guide with a “how to do it” action pack;
  • a four-page education/worship resource with a Minute for Mission, prayers, children’s sermon and skits, bulletin insert, and materials on the CWS Web program Build a Village;
  • a poster and offering leaflet;
  • a new Tools & Blankets video or DVD;
  • a CD-Rom of all the resources, including children’s activities and ideas for special offerings on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s and Father’s Day.

The new materials draw on the humanitarian agency’s work in Indonesia, where CWS has been active since the 1960s and especially since the December 2004 tsunami.

More information on the Tools & Blankets program is available online at or by calling (888) 297-2767.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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