“What do you need?” Orphan Grain Train leaders asked South Sudanese pastor Stephen Mathiang as he toured their Maryland supply warehouse. Mathiang runs the Mission Gardens of Christ in his war-torn home country, where orphans are cared for, over 600 impoverished children are educated, more than 150 pastors are trained, and many more people in need are served. He humbly replied, “I’ll take everything.”
Across the globe, the needs that the Maryland branch of Orphan Grain Train meets are significant. Established in 2004, the Millersville-based Maryland branch is one of 27 locations around the U.S. that gather clothing and relief supplies for destitute people around the world. Orphan Grain Train (OGT) is a Christian volunteer network with a mission to “share resources and bring Christ’s name and character to needy people both far and near.” Since 1992, OGT has sent over 4,500 shipments of donated food, clothing, medical supplies and other needs domestically and to 71 countries.
Severna Park resident Elfie Eberle founded the Maryland branch two decades ago. Previously, she started a branch in New York after witnessing a great need for medical supplies while visiting her missionary daughter in Russia. She has now been involved with Orphan Grain Train for 30 years and considers it her joy.
“If someone is in need and we have what they need, we give it to them,” she shared of OGT’s straightforward mission.
Maryland Branch Manager Bruce Coonradt explained that OGT meets needs locally, nationally and internationally. OGT supplies coats and clothing for the homeless and individuals recovering from addiction in nearby Baltimore and Annapolis.
Nationally, OGT aids in disaster relief and sends truckloads of supplies to organizations such as the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky, which serves impoverished communities in 11 states.
The Maryland branch’s international efforts are focused primarily in Africa, supporting schools, orphanages, churches and other groups in South Sudan, Cameroon, Liberia, Malawi and Ghana. However, OGT Maryland was on the frontlines when an earthquake rattled Turkey in 2023, and OGT has partnered with local Ukrainian churches to send aid to the war-torn European country.
Eberle shared that through its recent “Light Up Ukraine” campaign, the Maryland branch raised $96,000 from generous community donors to purchase 11,759 solar-powered Luci Lights for Ukrainians, supplying them with the basic human need of light.
“We always say that we’re the hands and feet of Jesus, and I really think that’s true,” Coonradt said. Commenting on the physical and monetary donations OGT receives that fuel its mission, he added, “It’s one miracle after another at Orphan Grain Train.”
Though it is small in size, the 6,300-square-foot Maryland OGT warehouse is always humming with activity. A team of about 25 volunteer staff and 100 monthly volunteers make it possible to reach Coonradt’s goal of sending at least one shipment per month, whether that be a truckload of supplies to Kentucky or a shipping container of relief to South Sudan. In 2023, he said, the branch exceeded this goal.
“It can cost in excess of $20,000 to do a shipment (to Africa),” Coonradt said. “We rely on God to provide all of those needs.”
OGT Maryland is supported by churches, various organizations and fundraising efforts of their own. In 2023, the nonprofit received a check from the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce after its Fourth of July parade float won “best theme.” OGT Maryland was also the beneficiary of Severna Park’s first PRO-Vision Memorial Run, a race that honored longtime resident Paul Robert Overton. OGT received $10,000 from the race, which took place in October of 2023.
Opportunities abound for community members to get involved with OGT. Individuals, families, teens fulfilling service hours, businesses and other groups are encouraged to serve in whatever capacity best suits them. Volunteers are always needed to pack boxes of school supplies, toys, sewing equipment, clothing, medical supplies and whatever else the warehouse might have on hand. Strong backs are needed to load the packed boxes for shipment. Some volunteers are tapped to drive trucks around the area to pick up larger donations.
“We need a lot of hands,” Coonradt said, adding that people interested in donating their time and talent can sign up online.
To learn more about the mission of Orphan Grain Train, or to volunteer with the Maryland branch, go to www.ogt.org.
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