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Holiday delivery brightens lives

When the Rev. Donna Rohrer shared her idea of collecting Christmas decorations for hurricane-impacted families in Florida, the response was more enthusiastic than she ever imagined.

BY SUSAN KIM | EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. | December 24, 2004

When the Rev. Donna Rohrer shared her idea of collecting Christmas decorations for hurricane-impacted families in Florida, the response was more enthusiastic than she ever imagined.

"We had phone calls as far away as Illinois,” said Rohrer, pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. “Everybody helped. The confirmation class helped. Moms of preschoolers helped one day. We had a wonderful turnout of people - children as young as four up to senior citizens."

And, when the time came for delivery, a church member who worked for Federal Express was able to get a discounted rate.

And that's how 150 boxes of Christmas ornaments - along with cash donations and gift cards - arrived in Indian River County, Fla., in time for Christmas.

Rohrer's desire to help goes back to her own memories of living in a disaster-struck community - Grand Forks, N.D., during the devastating flooding there. "My son, as his Boy Scout Eagle project, collected decorations for families who lost everything," she said. "I remember how hard this time of year can be."

The Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) in Indian River County distributed the decorations. The RCMA has a mission of creating and fostering opportunities for children of migrant and other low-income rural families to maximize the choices in their lives.

Among other services, RCMA provides childcare, educational opportunities, and advocacy.

RCMA was founded in the Redlands area of Dade County, Fla., where a group of Mennonites provided care for farm worker children, so they would not be taken to the fields.

Rohrer has been helping Florida’s storm survivors since she canceled a vacation during hurricane season and decided to spend her vacation volunteering instead.

"My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary," explained Rohrer, and the couple had planned a 4-day cruise out of Miami, she said - but then the hurricanes hit. "We decided not to vacation in the midst of all of that," Rohrer explained. Instead, she and her husband called their Lutheran contacts in Florida and asked how they could help.

They found themselves on a work trip instead of a cruise. "My husband swings a pretty good hammer," laughed Rohrer, "and I organize well - and we did that for our week."


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