“Anyone who is from Maplewood understands that there is a unique service-oriented aspect here and we have a heart to give back,” said Maplewood-born-and-bred Jennifer Hill at the Ebola Supply Drive at First Maplewood Baptist Church on Sunday.
Hill, who went to Clinton School, South Orange Middle School and Columbia High School, was back in her home town to help organize the drive for a hospital in Liberia.
Through her job in South Jersey, Hill connected with Jeremy Gono, a native of Liberia. On Sunday in the First Maplewood Baptist Church kitchen, Gono spoke movingly of a friend who was killed by Ebola along with his entire family. Gono has a connection with an elected representative from Nimba, the second largest district in Liberia, whom Hill, Gono and their organizing cohorts Donielle Dees and Tommina Johnson are utilizing to deliver supplies to the GW Harley Hospital in Sanniquellie, Liberia.
The group has come up with a low-cost way for folks from all walks of life to help fight the Ebola epidemic. They are not soliciting monetary donations. Rather, they are asking for the donation of supplies that can be bought at any dollar store: gloves, hand sanitizer, bleach, antiseptic wipes and more.
They are using social media to spread the word, creating the Facebook page Ebola Supply Drive and the hashtag #EbolaAid14. On Sunday, they collected email, phone numbers and street addresses of those bringing donations for use in future outreach.
Meanwhile, the Maplewood First Baptist Church will remain very involved. The church was founded by Hill’s father Roy Butler Sr. and is now led by her mother Marsha Butler. Roy Butler Jr. was on hand on Sunday as well, documenting the overflowing donations in photographs.
“We are here to serve and improve people’s lives,” said the elder Butler, explaining how the drive fit perfectly into the church’s mission. “We see it as an ongoing ministry.”
“Liberia has experienced a lot of turmoil,” said Patricia McGill of Victory Thru Faith. She noted that one decade ago a civil war preceded the current devastating outbreak of Ebola. McGill said that many in Liberia with other diseases like diabetes are now afraid to go to the hospital, compounding health issues of all kinds throughout the country.
“Instead of watching the news saying, ‘Oh, that’s messed up, somebody has to do something,'” continued McGill, “we’re doing what little we can.”
Also on hand were a group of 9th to 12th graders from the Kappa League, the national youth initiative of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Beau Younker, their group leader, said it was important for the young men to put a face on a seemingly faraway tragedy and know that they can help.
Now that the social media infrastructure has been set up, Hill said that the Ebola Supply Drive group will do more organizing around the fight to stop to Ebola.
Photos below appear courtesy of Roy Butler Jr.
Watch an interview with Hill, Gono, Johnson and Dees here:
Read about another Maplewood faith community’s efforts to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone here.