Cars, pick-up trucks, trailers, and moving vans pull up to the parking lot of Valley Lutheran High School (Saginaw, Mich.) in a steady stream. They park near one of two semis, and volunteers start unloading boxes containing quilts, baby care kits, personal care kits, fabric (sewing) kits, and school kits for Lutheran World Relief (LWR).
Patricia (Pat) Schuknecht, her husband Steve, her sister Liz, and her brother-in-law, Rev. Bob Mikkelson, coordinate the whole operation and are aided by VLHS students. They start at 9 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. Pat is the Michigan District coordinator for the LWR annual ingathering that takes place the third week in October. LWR semis are stationed at three different locations (Valley Lutheran, Lutheran HS Westland, and West Lutheran HS in Grand Rapids). Other churches around the state organize local ingatherings and later send their full vans to meet up with the trucks, which in turn take the donations to the LWR warehouse in Baltimore. From there (as well as from the Minnesota warehouse), the kits and quilts are shipped all over the world. It is an impressive operation that, in 2020 alone, helped 616,210 people in need in 23 countries with $11.1 million worth of quilts and care kits.
Pat started serving as LWR Ingathering Coordinator 21 years ago, when she worked at the Michigan District office, and continued even when she was no longer part of the staff. At first, this was a huge undertaking: the system LWR had in place at the time required going to the Detroit rail yard to load 6 boxcars. This meant that the volunteers would load up the semis at different locations around the state only to unload them again, transferring the donations to the train. Pat would have help from local Lutheran School students—sometimes 100 of them—which meant providing a catered meal to all, besides bringing cider and donuts to the rail yard operators. When the rail yards were no longer able to accommodate LWR shipments, three Lutheran High Schools with large parking lots agreed to be ingathering sites.
Pat shares: “In this country we take for granted what we have; and over there, when you get a bar of soap, it’s really something.” She told the story of a lady from her church who taught English to children and adults who had been in refugee camps. One time she brought her students to help load the truck in Howell. Looking at the boxes, one boy asked, “What is this?” When it was explained to him that those were the quilts and kits that are sent overseas, he said, “So that’s where they came from!” Those kids had received a quilt and a kit when they were in a refugee camp. They said, “We wondered where it came from!” According to Pat, stories like these are what has kept her going all these years.
Thank you, Pat, for the years of service and dedication.
Photos by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS
Pat will be retiring from the coordinator position. If you are interested, or know someone who might be interested in taking on the Michigan District LWR Ingathering Coordinator role, please contact her at 517.548.2435 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.