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Penn Township women collect items to send to needy in African nation

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn-Trafford Star Agnes Anderson, owner of the Same Day Dry Cleaners in Harrison City, sorts through clothing that she will package and ship to the needy in her hometown in Ghana.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn-Trafford Star Agnes Anderson, owner of the Same Day Dry Cleaners in Harrison City, sorts through clothing that she will package and ship to the needy in her hometown in Ghana..

Although Agnes Anderson returns to her Ghana hometown twice a year, she has a year-round passion to collect used clothing and school supplies to ship to the needy in the African nation.

Many of her customers at Same Day Dry Cleaners, the Harrison City shop she's run for 10 years, are unaware she amasses children's apparel, books and adult diapers in the back of the business as she organizes for the next shipment.

Anderson gathers many of the things herself, even buying clothing at thrift shops to put into the packages. She credits a group of five women who learned about the 5-year-old project as being dedicated donors, but Anderson is interested in expanding the effort.

She said she doesn't do it for a tax deduction, and she doesn't ask for cash pledges toward the shipping costs, which can top $1,000 for each of the couple-times-a-year shipments.

It's a small price for Anderson, given that the United Nations reports the gross national income per capita in Ghana is $1,544.

“I want to make (the donation effort) big,” said Anderson, 53, of Monroeville. “I don't want a penny out of it. If I put joy on the children's faces, that's all I want.”

Anderson goes through shipping agencies that send the packages by sea — with deliveries taking six or seven weeks — because it's cheaper than the U.S. Postal Service or privately owned delivery services. She sent the last round of supplies in January, a few weeks in advance of her Feb. 17 trip to Accra, the capital city.

An aspiring nurse who is taking classes as Community College of Allegheny County, Anderson found kindred spirits in donors Kim Pierce, Cindy Gainer, Carrie Rausch, Margaret Monroe and Christine Clark, all of whom live in Penn Township.

Pierce, who has sponsored families in Africa through Women for Women International for 17 years, dropped off about 75 items on Jan. 22.

“We have so much in the United States,” Pierce said. “We're so blessed, and you should give back treasures so someone else can have a better life.”

Gainer said she began helping out after striking up a conversation with Anderson about a drought in one African country. An author of five children's books, Gainer donated copies of one book, “Fish Friends,” and several educational posters featuring her artwork.

Gainer said she saw a fit in helping the children in Ghana, and was floored when Anderson's sister, Marian Kwayke, called long-distance to thank her for the donations to the schools.

The World Bank estimates that 30 percent of Ghanaian children suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting, which is being too short for an age.

“(Agnes is) easy to talk to,” Gainer said. “It wasn't hard for me to want to help her and her family and the children of Ghana.

“It's very fulfilling to know that some small thing I did here can aid somebody so far away.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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