'The right thing to do'
With a lot of help from their friends, 11 members of the Abundant Joy Fellowship Church will begin a mission trip to Zimbabwe on Monday.
The members of the Tarentum church will spend two weeks in the African country, providing aid to its people, according to one of the group's leaders, Cathy Blythe.
“Twenty years ago, there was a family that moved to Tarentum from Zimbabwe,” Blythe said. “My son, Matthew, who was 9 at the time, kept saying he wanted to go to Zimbabwe and pass out peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to the children there.
“Now, 20 years later, he's going to get that chance.”
Blythe — who also will be accompanied by her other son, Daniel, and her husband/pastor, Greg, among others — said that Zimbabwe family of 20 years ago, the Makambiras, will guide the group on their trip.
“Margaret Makambira is involved with a group called Shinga Development Trust — Bread and Water for Africa,” Blythe said. “She lived in Tarentum with her family for three years, but then moved back to Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe has the fifth-highest AIDS death rate in the world, and almost 70 percent of the country lives in poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The Tarentum group will be bringing bags of supplies — including peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches — most of the items contributed by community members, Blythe said.
“A lot of children die from diarrhea because they don't have Imodium,” she said. “So we're going to bring a lot.”
Blythe said her husband stopped in Tarentum Hardware and told them what the group is doing.
“They donated 500 packets of seeds for the agriculture program we'll be working with,” she said.
A big problem is that a lot of orphans don't have underwear, Blythe said.
“So I started a Facebook group called ‘Operation Under Gutchies,' ” she said. “We were hoping for 750 pairs; we have more than 1,000 now.
“Every time I open my door there's another bag of underwear there.”
The Tarentum American Legion donated a lot of supplies, she said, along with other people and organizations.
“It's amazing how great the community has been,” she said.
A major contribution to the aid effort is coming from two pint-sized humanitarians.
With the help of their mom Jeannie Dennis, Alyssa, 6, and her brother, Ethan, 9, made more about 350 “care bags.”
The Tarentum family filled the bags with oral-care items and some fun stuff, too.
“We put a note pad, toothbrushes, crayons, and toys” in the bags, said Ethan, a fourth-grader at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament School in Harrison. “I gave 100 of my (toy) cars.”
Alyssa Dennis said all the hard work she put into the bags was worth it to help other children she didn't even know.
“We love them,” the kindergartner at Blessed Sacrament said.
The children also put their favorite candy into the bags; Ethan's is Nerds, Alyssa's lollipops.
“It's the right thing to do, and God would want me to do it,” Ethan said.
“I hope we can make them happy.”
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Seven in custody after New Kensington drug raid
- Harrison woman dead in 3-car crash in Natrona Heights
- Stretch of Freeport Road rezoned
- Armstrong County to try Welshman on indecent assault, related charges
- New Kensington officials eager to demolish 3 fire-ravaged buildings
- Kiski Area sells school building
- Allegheny Valley board reduces transfer to $1.5M
- Most wanted fugitive caught in New Kensington
- Fawn fugitive Filous captured, jailed
- Impact fees benefit Alle-Kiski Valley
- Cookies for Our Troops marches on