They don’t have super powers, catchy costumes, or an exciting name, but the Sort & Pack Crew of Drayton (Ontario) Christian Reformed Church are heroes to those in dozens of northern Ontario communities who are touched by their work.
For about 10 years, volunteers from the church have been gathering donations from their church and community and sending them to the province’s northernmost communities, populated mostly by First Nations people.
Knitted clothes, warm quilts and afghans, school supplies, sports equipment, and homemade wooden toys all make their way north to appreciative families and communities. Many of the donated items are handmade by people or groups who’ve heard about the difficult living conditions of these remote rural communities and want to help.
Laura Marchment, a local woman, made and contributed over 50 quilts last year, as well as many knitted slippers and vests. The 96-year-old has been making 100 quilts per year for some time and giving all of them to various charities. “I find there are not many quilt-makers, and [people] need them so badly,” she explained.
Shipments go out every spring and fall, but before that can happen, all these items must be sorted and packed for shipping. That’s where the Sort & Pack Crew comes in. Their work is a dual ministry, sending goods to First Nations Friends and Canadian Food for Children. Drayton CRC has been their base since 2005, when a room was created in the church where donated goods could be stored and then sorted and packed for shipping.
Evelyn Knetsch, the current coordinator of the group, is excited about the work they’re doing. “Over the years, [we] have flown in about a thousand boxes full of products to be given to families in need,” she said. The group has recently arranged for northern distribution with the Mennonite Central Committee in Timmins, Ontario, where Knetsch and two others from the church visited this spring to see for themselves the needs—and the impact they’re making—in Ontario’s northern communities.