While the Maryland branch of Orphan Grain Train (OGT) is always seeking ways to help people in the U.S. and 69 other countries, the volunteer network chose its Millersville warehouse as the site of its International Fest fundraiser on September 21.
During the fundraiser, the all-volunteer organization highlighted its efforts to ship donated food, clothing, and school and medical supplies to people in need.
It was also an opportunity for volunteers to share their passion for OGT. Board member Irene Giguere has been with OGT since 2008, two years after the Maryland branch was started. Among other things, she is in charge of a winter coat collection.
“I think people like having the opportunity to serve,” Giguere said. “As a Christian organization, it’s a way to show love.”
Fellow board member Bonnie Jordan talked about OGT’s reach.
“We do send supplies domestically as well as internationally,” she said. “We helped out when there was flooding in Ellicott City and with Crisfield after Hurricane Sandy.”
A realtor, Jordan got involved in OGT after being approached by OGT Maryland branch manager Elfie Eberle, who bought a home from Jordan.
Also on hand for International Fest were two of Jordan’s newest neighbors, Stan and Amie Newquist. Their granddaughter, Ava Janeski, has a rare condition known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). She developed the condition in October 2018 at age 4 and became paralyzed from the neck down.
Wanting to help her new neighbors, Jordan set up a monetary collection during the OGT fundraiser to help young Ava.
“The new insurance doesn’t pay for certain things,” Stan said. “It doesn’t make the house handicap-accessible. With Ava being on a trach and ventilator, she needs full-time care.”
Ava has a brother with autism, and while both children are loved by their mom, Amanda, and dad, Ron, they need a lot of care.
“It’s really sad,” Amie said. “A newborn baby can do more than she can.”
Board member Martha McGlynn talked about her plans to visit Nicaragua in January for the sixth time in seven years. A group from OGT will offer Vacation Bible School and women’s Bible study.
“This is a very poverty-stricken country,” McGlynn said. “We only go to places that have outhouses. There’s no indoor plumbing, except in the city.”
The event’s guest speaker Theil Theil shared his own tale of poverty. Hailing from South Sudan, he came to America in 1998 after suffering great trauma in his homeland.
He recalled one day when he was in a teacher’s office, and his friends from school were running to greet a military convoy. A landmine exploded. The commander blamed the kids. Most of them were shot, and their village was burned.
“You can see the sky that day, red,” Theil said. “You see every home crying.”
But he also shared his many triumphs: marrying his childhood friend, Rose; learning English; and studying at Rutgers University.
Theil said that’s why OGT is so vital; it supports groups of people who otherwise would have no hope for supplies, food and clothing.
Reflecting on the uplifting spirit of Theil’s message and of International Fest as a whole, Giguere said, “You’ll see the comradery among the volunteers. It’s like a family event.”
To learn more about Orphan Grain Train, call 410-544-1621. To support Ava Janeski, go to the GoFundMe page for “Princess Baby Bird AFM.”