A small room at the County Office Building in Westminster has become filled in the past two weeks with hundreds of bars of soap, tubes of toothpaste and boxes of bandages. Combs, nail files, towels and washcloths and all manner of baby supplies are also taking up space, until they can be packed and shipped to South Asia for the tsunami relief effort.
The drive for supplies, sponsored by the Carroll County commissioners, took place throughout the building in the county seat and at the five public library branches. Contributors gave more than $500 in cash as well as copious amounts of personal hygiene and grooming items.
Vivian D. Laxton, Carroll's public information administrator, volunteered for after-hours sorting and packing duty, enlisting the aid of several other county employees and a few of their children.
The volunteers put together 77 health kits and several layettes last week and have more than enough donations to continue assembling. Church World Services will distribute the items throughout the areas devastated by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami.
"We have a lot of work still to do, and I am glad we have so many donations to do it with," Laxton said. "We have money to cover the shipping costs, too."
Church World Services, one of several faith-based relief agencies with offices at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, lists items for a standard health kit.
Each k i t starts with a sealable, one-gallon plastic bag that is filled with a hand towel, washcloth, comb, metal nail file, bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and six adhesive bandages. Baby kits include six cloth diapers, two shirts, two washcloths, two sleepers and a sweater wrapped in two receiving blankets and secured with diaper pins.
Kayla Topper, 1 2 , h e r 10-year-old brother, Brady Topper, and their mother, Tammy Conrad, were among those putting together kits at the County Office Building last week.
Conrad said her children had seen the devastation on the news and had discussed the story in their classrooms. Kayla has become so well-versed in the science of earthquakes and tsunamis that she can explain how the phenomena occur, her mother said.
"We are too far from an ocean for it to happen here," Kayla assured her mother.
Vickie Johnson, spokeswoman for Interchurch Medical Assistance, an international relief agency headquartered at the Brethren Service Center, said schools across the country are making donations to help tsunami victims.
An elementary school in Tennessee collected $4,500 for IMA and UNICEF, North Caroline High School on the Eastern Shore has sent $1,000 and Roland Park Elementary in Baltimore has invited Johnson to its fund-raiser.
"We have had touching letters and e-mails from all over," Johnson said. "We are truly heartened by the world's response."
The donations are welcome in what center workers expect will be a continuing relief effort. It costs the center $12 to put together a health kit, $35 for a baby kit and $1 to ship each package.
IMA has already shipped more than $1 million worth of emergency medicines and supplies to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, Johnson said. The agency has received enough donations to put together more than 650 medicine boxes, each of which can supply about 100 people with basic medicines and antibiotics.
As soon as Laxton delivers the county donations to the center, the items will become part of shipment, Johnson said.
The shipments reflect a coordinated effort among several agencies and donors, she said. In addition to health kits, layettes and medicine boxes, the center is sending blankets, drinking water supplies and meal packets.
"It is so heartening that people in the area are willing to rise to the challenge just as we are willing to get these donations towhere they are needed," Johnson said.