Palette of school kits being loaded by forklift.
Ken Ogasawara

MCC Ontario's Material Resources Coordinator Jon Lebold loads a container in April 2020.

Since 2003, Grantham Mennonite Brethren Church has been buying and packing countless kits for MCC, helping tens of thousands of people in need with tangible gifts of hope. This generous tradition all began when one woman took inspiration from a tiny part of a famous Bible story. “I had read the part about God speaking to Moses from the burning bush,” recalls Kathie Fast. “God said, ‘Moses what is that in your hand?’ And that arrested me because [I thought] ‘What do we have in our hands?We have so much. God spoke to me through that little phrase, ‘Moses, what is in your hand?’”

Kathie Fast in an undated photo.Submitted by Kathie Fast.

With that verse in mind, Kathie was moved by MCC’s plea on behalf of those in need of material resources during times of disaster and conflict. For Kathie, answering this plea was a way of sharing what she had in her hands. Kathie was joined by her friend Mika Enns in the early years. “The first years for us were pretty hard because we did all the shopping [ourselves],” Kathy recalls. “And then I got to know the owners of the different businesses... I could go and sit in their office and choose what I wanted and we just ordered everything. And then on the last day we picked everything up and that was that. So it was easier as we went along.” Kathy and Mika’s purchases included hundreds of towels, toothbrushes, shampoo bottles, combs, notebooks, and other supplies necessary for the various kits that MCC sends.

Eventually, Kathie had an idea that would create a powerful impact in her own community: “Why not make this a church event?”

Deb Bergen (left) and Beth Thiessen pack relief kits during Grantham MB's 2020 kit campaign.Submitted by Tabitha VandenEnden

Grantham Mennonite Brethren Church, where Kathie attends, enthusiastically adopted the kit collection idea and it quickly became an annual tradition. In addition to the material benefits to those receiving these gifts of warmth and comfort, Kathie saw another opportunity with the kit packing. “My thinking in all of this is that we can use the kits as a teaching tool for the younger generation,” says Kathie. “I wanted them to realize how much they can help in making things easier for refugees and other people in need around the world.”

Emily Plett with her daughters Leah, Madison, and Natalie take part in last year's kit-packing day at Grantham MB.Submitted by Tabitha VandenEnden

“It’s been neat for us as pastors and parents to get to see our own children be taken into this whole project,” says co-pastor Tabitha VandenEnden who came to Grantham with her husband and three young children ten years ago. “It really is a great intergenerational project.”

The congregation typically raises $5,000 in the fall or spring, buys as many supplies as they can, and then prepares their church gym by laying out all the kit materials for a grand kit-packing event. According to Tabitha, the process of hand-packing the kits is especially rewarding for the younger generation. “It helps them to connect a larger global picture in a way that just raising money doesn’t.”

“The last two years we did 900 hygiene kits each year,” says Kathie. “And then we had quite a bit of money left over that we sent to MCC for shipping costs and for toothpaste and whatever else they needed.” While in past years the missions committee has gone out to stores and purchased supplies themselves, this past year during the pandemic, Grantham member Deb Bergen coordinated with MCC to purchase the items in bulk. “That was extremely helpful,” says Tabitha. “We plan to continue bulk purchasing with MCC in the future.”

John Thiessen in the gym at Grantham Mennonite Brethren Church at last year's kit-packing day.Submitted by Tabitha VandenEnden

Globally, the pandemic has triggered greater need around the world as forcibly displaced people have been hit hardest with the effects of the virus. This makes the steady commitment of those like Grantham MB Church so valuable. “We are deeply grateful for everyone at Grantham for their continued support,” says Material Resources Coordinator Jon Lebold. “To have folks that we can count on every year is so amazing and I’m just moved by their generosity year after year.”

For Tabitha, the commitment to the cause is a win-win for her church. “We all look forward to it and we can’t imagine not doing it,” she says. “It's a privilege and it’s a joy to serve in this way.”

“I hope that the next generation will pick up where we left off,” reflects Kathie. Last year, for the first time, she was not directly involved with the campaign. At the tender age of 89, she recognized that going out shopping, especially during the pandemic, was not a viable option, but she has high hopes that the tradition of generosity and compassion continues. “I'm just hoping that we will never become complacent about this, but that we will be engaged in whatever service God wants us to have.”


Churches or community groups who are interested in starting their own kit-packing campaigns when COVID-19 protocols allow are welcome to contact Jon Lebold at

The simplest way to give gifts of hope and compassion through the Material Resources program is to donate cash for kits here or purchase kit supplies here and host your own kit-packing event

This year, relief shipments from Canada are scheduled to be sent to partners Lebanon, Jordan and Ukraine, and possibly Iraq depending on supply levels.