Humanitarian aid donations from MI church destroyed in Beirut blast

Southwest Michigan

***Editor’s note: It was later discovered the supplies were sheltered from the blast. Our updated report can be found here.***

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) — Peace Lutheran Church in St. Joseph has learned some of its donations meant for refugees were destroyed in the Beirut port explosion earlier this month. 

Pastor Steve Hartten says some of the personal care and school kits put together by the congregation never made it to refugee camps in Lebanon.

“Basic essentials we take here for granted, but for refugees who have lost their home and sometimes they’re separated from their family, it’s something very basic they can use,” Hartten said. 

The church has been creating the care kits for decades, working with Lutheran World Relief. 

“We are disappointed they didn’t make it but it’s the loss of life that impacts us more than the fact that this donation didn’t get to where it’s going,” Hartten said. 

Melanie Gibbons, the deputy director for outreach and engagement with Lutheran World Relief, says three shipping containers were destroyed totaling nearly $625,000 in supplies.  

“Our tracking system doesn’t allow us to say exactly how many school kits, or exactly how many personal care kits that congregation had on that shipment but we do know of what was lost, there were 3,500 school kits and 19,500 personal care kits that were lost,” Gibbons said. 

The shipment also included about 22,500 quilts handmade by Lutheran Church members across the country. Peace Lutheran did not lose any of its quilts in the explosion. The care kits are distributed around the world and can take many months to reach a destination. 

“They had been received just a few days before the explosion and were waiting in the port to go through the customs clearance process and be picked up by our partner,” Gibbons said. 

The shipment was insured, and the relief organization is working to reroute some supplies stored at a United Nations warehouse to meet more immediate needs. 

“The port is inaccessible and so if we can get something over land from Dubai, that could be helpful in terms of our actual items,” Gibbons said. 

If you are interested in donating, you can contact your local Lutheran church to see if they participate in the program. Supplies must meet specific parameters to be accepted. 

Contributions can also be made directly to Lutheran World Relief by visiting the organization’s website at https://lwr.org/. 

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