Student volunteers line up for work Juniors, seniors help at New Windsor center aiding artists

July 26, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

On the road from Baltimore to New Windsor yesterday, juniors and seniors from several city high schools reviewed their production strategy, preparing for another community service day at Brethren Service Center.

After carefully unpacking 650 wind chimes Wednesday, they had all the assembly line experience they needed. The students have been volunteering since Wednesday and will continue until today.

Within a few hours of their arrival yesterday, six students and two teachers had unloaded, unwrapped, priced and repackaged 1,236 hand-carved wooden boxes from India.

After lunch, they tackled bigger, but more delicate, wooden boxes inlaid with brass, also from India. To protect the intricate designs, they added a bagging step to their line.

The students are among more than 3,000 volunteers who donate 50,000 hours to the center annually.

At the Maryland Student Service Alliance in May, Kathleen Campanella, the center's public relations coordinator, interested city education officials in several volunteer opportunities.

On their arrival Wednesday, Campanella gave the students a brief orientation about "what we do here, the why of community service and the people we are helping."

Through its catalogs and gift shops, the center markets products and provides an income for artisans from 40 developing countries.

Patricia J. Brownlee is coordinating the city school groups and supervising the students. A hands-on leader, Brownlee tackled every job, but acknowledged that the girls had worked out the assembly line without her.

'Time-consuming'

Yesterday on the box brigade, Brownlee unloaded the crates from India and then piled the wooden boxes at one end of the table. Occasionally, she read aloud a blurb from an Indian newspaper used in the packing. There was one advertisement for a bride.

"I'm not moving to India," said Maria Fisher, 18.

Maria deftly removed the thin wrapping and opened each box so Shavon Graham, 16, and Monica Plato, 16, could tape inside a small "gifts that make a difference" card.

"We have got the flow," said Maria, a senior at Harbor City Learning Center.

Kaili Johnson, 17, and Erica Lightner, 17, added an $8.95 price sticker to the box bottom. Markia Kennedy, 16, repacked them, carefully counting 26 to a carton.

"All easy jobs, but time-consuming," said Kaili, a senior at Walbrook High, who announced she was changing jobs on the afternoon shift. "I've had it with this sticky stuff. I'm bagging next."

She may have to discuss that proposal with Erika, who decided everyone was well placed.

"Maria has long arms, so none of us has to reach too far for the boxes," said Erika, a Dunbar High senior. "And Markia sure can count."

Everyone willingly donated labor.

"We might be helping people to feed their children," Kaili said .

The girls, who had a little time to browse at the International Gift Shop on campus, all extolled the superior quality of the merchandise. "These are all handmade," said Maria. "You can tell people took their precious time to make them."

The Brethren Center returns the profits to artisans working in countries such as India, Kenya and Haiti.

"We are here helping somebody else out, who lives far away," said Kaili. "They are working to support their families."

School supplies

Although the students had never visited the center before this week, they had participated in its Gifts from the Heart program.

They met several times at Lake Clifton High and filled canvas bags with school supplies, which the center ships to classrooms around the world. Many school kits recently went to war-ravaged Bosnia.

"They are things for children who don't have what we have," said Markia, a senior at Forest Park High. "Anybody any age can get one of these kits."

On her bag, she drew a circle of stick people of all different colors holding hands and dropped inside a "note of encouragement."

'From a friend'

"We hear the bags really cheer up the kids," said Kaili, who decorated her bag with teddy bears and wrote "to you from a friend in the U.S. of A."

The students were packing products again today and are donating two more days next week.

Will they come back to New Windsor?

"I'd like to, but I may never find my way back," said Erika. "I would like to travel to the places where these things came from."

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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