Facility to stay in New Windsor

Church of the Brethren renews commitment to center, ministries

Group sends aid to Turkey

Gift shop is staying in space it occupies on religious campus

August 26, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Brethren Service Center, whose shops, inn and humanitarian operations have for more than 50 years dominated New Windsor's Main Street, will continue to operate in the Carroll County town.

The general board of the Church of the Brethren, based in Elgin, Ill., has renewed its long-standing commitment to the center and its ministries.

The statement is no longer "if we stay in New Windsor," but "how do we stay in New Windsor," Judy Mills Reimer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren, wrote in a recent press release from Elgin.

The board will work to maintain its tenants and "reach out to other agencies to help provide the center with a sustainable future," Reimer said.

The board has approached several other church-based agencies, inviting them "to join us at this beautiful campus," she said. For the past three years, the board has made several organizational changes. Members had considered consolidating centers at one location. That would have meant closing its offices in Elgin or its operations in Carroll County.

The board decided last year to separate the International Gift Shop, a nonprofit business with annual revenues of $5 million, from its other agencies in New Windsor. The shop, which has been at the center for 50 years, supports artisans throughout the world with sales of their handicrafts. It is soon to be an independent venture.

The shop has no plans to vacate its space at the center, for which it signed a three-year lease, said Kathleen Campanella, center spokeswoman. It has an outlet in Westminster's Cranberry Mall and has a short lease that expires next month at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

"As with anything new, the shop is seeing how its first year as an independent business goes," she said. "It has been synonymous with New Windsor for so long, I can't see it leaving. Currently, there are no plans to move."

The conference center, which provides meals, meeting rooms and lodging, has been under new management and "is really taking off," helping support other operations, Campanella said.

But the separation of the shop from center operations and the recent departure of the Heifer Project, a 50-year-old program that provides livestock to developing countries (it will reopen in Atlanta this fall) made New Windsor employees uneasy about the future, Campanella said. The announcement from the church board allayed fears.

"It affirmed the work of New Windsor and affirmed the need of an East Coast location," she said. "There is such a rich tradition here of working and helping. We are looking forward to bringing the Elgin and New Windsor staffs together."

When Stan Noffsinger took over as center coordinator in New Windsor two months ago, he was asked if he had been hired as the hatchet man. He answered that his role is caretaker for the resources of the Church of the Brethren, most notably its people.

"I didn't move my family across country to fire people," said Noffsinger, who moved from Wichita, Kan. "Organizational change tears at our souls, but what is emerging is people with a passion for their work. I want to do whatever I can to lift them up and to uphold the mechanism by which our constituents can respond to the call of servanthood."

Noffsinger had his first experience with emergency response on an international scale last week, overseeing several shipments to earthquake-ravaged Turkey.

The center shipped seven trailer loads of supplies, including 300,000 wool blankets and 500 cartons of plastic sheeting used to make tents. On Friday, a shipment of six water tanks, made of light-weight thick plastic, left New Windsor for airlift to Turkey. The tanks will store potable water.

At the center's warehouse, Interchurch Medical Assistance is putting together kits of supplies that quake victims will need for many months. Noffsinger expects to be involved in the recovery effort for several months and the warehouse remains on alert for all contingencies, he said.

"We are looking at ways to support the people of Turkey as they recover and rebuild," he said.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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