The Duncan Banner

November 3, 2013

Nothing ordinary about the box

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — “The impromptu announcement came from the back of the Redbud Courtyard meeting room in the Simmons Center. It was closer to the beginning of last week’s Rotary meeting than the end.

A table of members – whose names aren’t necessarily important for today’s column but who sit together at what we affectionately call the “judges” table – had enthusiastically pitched in $1,000 to purchase a box. They challenged other “tables” or individuals or groups of members to match their effort with equal excitement.

It wasn’t, you see, just any box.

Unbeknown to Rotarians here, our global organization – there are 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs throughout the world -- is involved with a sister club in England that makes and distributes boxes.

Special boxes.

They’re called ShelterBoxes and they’re designed to help families who lose everything when disaster strikes. They provide emergency shelters, literally, and lifesaving equipment and tools that help bring self-sufficiency and survival to the most immediate and needy of recovery efforts.

Local members learned of the program two weeks ago when David Shirley of Norman told us about the Helston-Lizard club in Cornwall, United Kingdom and its unique idea, when he explained most organizations seek to provide food, water and medical care in the aftermath of a catastrophic event and when he noted ShelterBoxes have been filling a critical need since 2000.

Listeners at the judges’ table heard the message. They looked through the sample box Shirley had on display. And they made something positive happen.

It’s an example of the Rotary spirit that makes so worthwhile the organization here and in 200 other countries.

Boxes, we learned, are customized to the particular event, but there is a core list of supplies for each. All equipment and supplies are new.

A sturdy tent with privacy partitions that can withstand high winds, heavy rainfall and extreme temperatures is essential. Ancillary components might include thermal blankets, insulated ground cover and mosquito netting or water purification tools where necessary.

A tool kit with a hammer, axe, saw, trenching shovel, hoe head, pliers and wire cutters enable survivors to cut firewood or dig a latrine.

A wood burning or multi-fuel stove that can burn anything from diesel to old paint is accompanied by pans, bowls, mugs and utensils for boiling water, cooking food or even staying warm.

And a children’s pack contains drawing books, crayons and other supplies that might generate a smile or relieve anxiety.

Fully and carefully packed, each box weighs approximately 120 pounds and is 33 inches by 24 inches by 22 inches. Each is sealed and banded for transit and security. And the box itself can be used for various needs like a cot or food container.

Since its 2000 founding, ShelterBoxes – still headquartered in England but with an affiliate in the United States and 15 other countries and a partnership with Rotary – has responded to nearly 200 disasters in 75 countries, providing aid to more than 600,000 people made homeless through no fault of their own.

It’s a practical and remarkable idea, one with great appeal for donors seeking opportunities to embrace a cause perhaps previously overlooked or neglected and one certainly not limited to Rotary Clubs or Rotarians.

It’s a strong message, one that easily and visually grabs your attention and shows almost immediately the benefit of a financial gift.

And it’s an inspiring response by a table of good guys moved by the presentation and a desire to help, one that hopefully encourages other club members to join their commitment and other community residents to see a similar value.

That a single green box can make such an impact, that it can provide shelter and warmth, dignity, recovery and hope is a gift not to be taken for granted.

If you have an interest in supporting so worthy a cause, contact a Rotarian for assistance or drop a check, for any amount, to P.O. Box 203, Duncan, Okla. 73534.

(580) 255-5354, Ext. 130