When Kiana Roat, former principal of Green Bay Adventist Junior Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States, approached Pathfinders area coordinator Becky Zeismer in 2018 with the idea of collecting sleeping bags no longer needed after the 2019 Oshkosh International Camporee, the two had no idea what to expect. Roat was heading the homeless ministry at the Green Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church and thought this might be an avenue to find some much-needed supplies.
It wasn’t until Zeismer traveled to Michigan for a meeting on the Oshkosh event that the idea took root. She recalls that Betty Whitehead, one of the main Oshkosh organizers, told her that while something like this had never been attempted at Oshkosh, there was certainly a need for collecting items that Pathfinder clubs ordered for pickup in Wisconsin but had no means of transporting home. Zeismer was then asked to coordinate the process of collecting reusable camping equipment, as well as the donations of perishable food items.
As the camporee drew near, plans ensued for an orderly processing of the goods. Working together, Roat and Zeismer helped coordinate the availability of three 16-foot (5-meter) enclosed utility trailers at the campsite. Volunteers arrayed trailers with banners and made announcements on social media and in the camporee newsletter to promote the outreach project. During the camporee, the donation effort was also highlighted each night before the beginning of the stage program.
As the camp ended on Saturday (Sabbath) evening on August 17, 2019, the four-person team began to receive items from clubs preparing to leave. They spent the night sorting through the food and equipment and loading items onto the trailers, assisted by a volunteer from the Wisconsin Academy Lighthouse Thrift Store, which also later benefited from the donations.
No one imagined the extraordinary outpouring of goods received, Zeismer said. “I was hoping we’d get a few sleeping bags, but I was overwhelmed with the amount of food!”
Food donations included canned goods, rice, dried beans, peanut butter, juice boxes, dry cereal, cases of shelf-stable milk, sauces, pasta, vegetarian hot dogs, and textured vegetable protein. Some groups even donated leftover fresh produce, including carrots, beets, and apples.
As for camping equipment, the team received 20-pound (9-kilogram) bottles of propane, camp chairs, tables, stoves, airbeds, and tarpaulins. The Street Team ministry, as it became known, which was the catalyst for the donation collection, received a total of 32 sleeping bags, 18 mats, 10 small tents, and 7 tarpaulins, along with several backpacks and other smaller items.
Zeismer looked back on the hours of labor that went into the collecting and sorting and said she is filled with gratitude. “Many, many people will be blessed by this effort. Please pray that God will bless each individual who will be receiving these items. What a mighty God!”
The trailers were taken to Green Bay, where the team continued sorting and dividing the donations. Food items were distributed to Green Bay Junior Academy, as well as other ministries of the church. The team will ship some of the tents and other supplies to Florida, where those camping supplies will be shipped to Pathfinder clubs in Cuba, leaders said.