Mission celebrates 40 years
Volunteers continue to ship supplies to the needy around the world
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
When they gather for their annual potluck/picnic Aug. 24, the
300 volunteers at the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse will celebrate
a milestone. The New Holstein facility has been shipping supplies
to missionaries worldwide for 40 years.
"They feel an ownership here," Sr. Dora Zapf, SDS, says of the
volunteers. She points to the volunteers' dedication that brings
them to the warehouse every week, year after year.
"We have young people come. They were children, who came with
their mothers, and now they come back to help," says Sr.
Zapf, who worked in the missions of Tanzania from 1961 to 1971. She
has been at the Mission Warehouse for 30 years.
Don Ertl, a member of St. Mary Parish in Stockbridge, is one of
those long-time volunteers. Twelve years ago, Don came one day with
his wife, Dorothy.
"I was so taken up by this," he said. "I was touched by the Holy
Spirit... We're doing good for the poor."
The Ertls come each Thursday. "If they don't have work for us,"
Don added, "everybody cries about it."
Another long-time, weekly volunteer is 98-year-old Helen Kirsch.
She says the warehouse is "almost like a second home."
The average age of volunteers at the warehouse, started 40 years
ago by Br. Regis Fust, SDS, is 75. Most are retired and able to
come during the day to prepare shipments for missions in Central
and South America, eastern and western Africa.
"The volunteers are giving of their time, knowing that what we
are sending is needed," said Br. Fust.
Volunteers work regular rotations, generally once a week. The
25,000-square-foot warehouse is stacked with cases, many from name
brand manufacturers, holding baby formula, over-the-counter
medicines, over-run clothing, food and even candy left over from
holidays and a source of much needed fat for malnourished and
Volunteers take these supplies, break down boxes and remove
unnecessary packaging that would take up valuable shipping space.
Everything is then tightly packed into containers and onto
semi-trailers for shipment. Repackaging is handled with scientific
precision. Paper products, which weigh less, fill up excess room in
large shipments and provide cushioning. Chocolate is packed toward
the middle and surrounded by items like crackers, to provide
insulation and prevent the candy from melting in hot climates.
Volunteers often come in parish groups, from Neenah, Appleton,
Little Chute, even Waupun in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. St. Raphael
Parish, where Sr. Zapf is a member, sends volunteers twice a
Fr. Dan Felton, pastor at St. Raphael, says Br. Fust, Sr. Zapf
and their volunteers "give witness to the gospel at least seven
days a week."
Much of what the warehouse ships is donated, or purchased at
discounted prices. But shipping costs money. Lots of money. For
example, a recent load of 32,000 pounds of donated baby formula -
valued at $330,000 - was shipped to Guatemala at a cost of $3,600.
In the first six months of this year, more than 1,500 tons of
supplies were transported, at shipping costs of more than
To pay these shipping costs, the warehouse relies on donations.
Some funding comes from the companies that donate the supplies.
Other money, according to Sr. Zapf, comes from volunteers
themselves, many bringing checks in regularly. "Here are my dues
for letting me work here" is what they tell her.
Not all the supplies go through New Holstein; some are routed
directly from manufacturing or processing plants to the missions -
such as pinto beans shipped from Iowa to Nicaragua.
Br. Fust and Sr. Zapf say the personal relationships developed
with each mission separates the Mission Warehouse from other relief
"We pack it up special for each mission," said Sr. Zapf. "It's
personalized. We ship according to need, not according to what we
have in the warehouse."
Therefore, they know if a mission needs emergency food during a
drought, or stuffed toys for children traumatized by an earthquake.
It also avoids snafus like sending winter clothing to a tropical
zone, or - as the U.S. government recently did - rice sent to
"That's not part of their (Iraqi) diet," said Br. Fust, shaking
his head and adding that it also drove up the price of rice, which
he often buys from producers.
He learned this personalized approach early - when he first
began helping missionaries 40 years ago after his sister, a nurse
working in an American hospital, asked him where to donate excess
medical supplies. He contacted a Salvatorian missionary, who
arranged for shipment to a missionary hospital. Then came other
missionary hospitals run by Salvatorians. Then missions run by
Benedictines, Capuchins and Dominicans. And, as Br. Fust puts it,
"my part-time work (some of which had been done by lay volunteers
even before 1963) became full-time."
And those missionaries remain in constant contact - via letters,
phone and email. All the letters to the Mission Warehouse are
shared with the volunteers.
Betty Bonde of School Hill, a regular volunteer, enjoys hearing
from the missionaries. "They are so thankful for what Br. Regis
does," she said.
Also, when missionaries come stateside for a visit, they stop in
New Holstein, located in the farm country of Calumet County. Sr.
Zapf says they are welcomed by volunteers as "one of their
As they, in fact, are. Br. Fust says people may think of
missionary work as something you leave home to accomplish. But
staying right here and packaging aspirin and sausages for starving
children in Ghana, Africa, can be just as crucial.
"Oftentimes, people want to work hands-on with the missions,"
said Br. Fust. "(But) it can be very frustrating in the missions,
working hands-on, if you don't have anything to work with."
The volunteers in New Holstein hope to keep sending lots of work
for a long time.
(For information, call (920)898-5898, email: [email protected], or visit online at http://salvatorians.com/missionwh/default.htm)