Hoping to provide practical items, plus words of comfort, the Schultz family in Clifton is shipping Comfort Paks of supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims in evacuation centers.
And the community can help by gathering specific items for any of five paks for families, children and infants. They'll then be sent to places such as Houston, San Antonio and Baton Rouge which are harboring people who've lost everything.
The effort is called "Covered in Comfort" and, said Elizabeth Schultz, "It's a very real and tangible, grassroots way to show we care and to send comfort to the victims." The accompanying list shows what's needed for the Comfort Paks; call Schultz at 703-266-2299 for further information.
"THESE COMFORT Paks will provide for the victims' needs while in temporary housing and school surroundings," she said. "And each Pak will contain a personal note of comfort and kind words. It's individual to individual, family to family and community to community. I know we've got big hearts here and, together, we could do a lot."
She and her husband Brian and their sons Christian, Grant and Garrett will man the drop-off sites. They'll start collecting Comfort Paks donated by the community this Friday, Sept. 16, from noon-2 p.m., at Noodles & Noggins toy store in Clifton.
Items may also be brought to two sites on Sunday, Sept. 18, from 8 a.m.-noon: The Clifton Farmer's Market on Chapel Road in the Town of Clifton, and the parking lot of St. Andrew the Apostle Church at the corner of Union Mill and Compton Roads, in the Little Rocky Run area.
However, Comfort Paks will still be collected after those dates, so people unable to have their donations ready by then just have to call Elizabeth Schultz, and she'll be happy to accept them. Everything should be new or in good, clean condition. She explained how the whole thing came about.
"I'd been sick for four months and had an operation recently, and my friends were taking care of me and providing meals and comfort," she said. "While I was recuperating, we watched the refugees on TV. They had no personal possessions and had lost everything. So we started talking about what we could do for them."
The Schultzes noticed that the contributed items had to be re-sorted and repackaged by other volunteers. So they decided to provide basic-needs "creature comforts," but in a more streamlined fashion.
"AND SOMETIMES people don't want to just write a check," she said. "They'd rather send actual things. There's a lot of burden in the communities that have taken in these extra people. So this is an outlet for people to help another family and for our community to show its support and relieve some of this burden."
If people can receive, for example, sheets and blankets through Comfort Paks, it's less that the shelters have to provide. And items such as books, playing cards and crayons can bring instant comfort and help combat boredom.
The Schultz family passed out flyers in Clifton, Centreville and Chantilly, and will also have them at a booth at Centreville Day, this Saturday, Sept. 17. "We hope the community will respond generously and give something small and tangible that will [be a gift] from one person to another," said Schultz.
People may give as many Comfort Paks as they want to and choose any of the five types. And, said Schultz, "Even donations of partial Paks will be gratefully accepted." She and her family will fill in anything not included. And as their own contribution, the Schultzes will do all the coordinating, collecting and shipping.
In addition, Jacquie Lambertson, owner of Noodles and Noggins, is collecting teddy bears from some other independent toy-store owners and providing them for the Paks.
The Schultzes are hoping for an enthusiastic community response to "Covered in Comfort" because, the bigger the response, the more people they can help. "Tens of thousands of houses and businesses have been destroyed, and there's going to be an ongoing need for a long time," said Schultz. "There are families and little kids who need that comfort. And if everybody plays a role in helping, it'll make a big difference."