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International Relief Organization Helps Those in Own Backyard

April 23, 1995

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Charity begins at home now for Feed The Children, a relief organization better known for helping victims of war and natural disaster in such remote and alien locales as Bosnia, Iran, Russia and Somalia.

Five miles from the site of the nation’s deadliest terrorist bombing, the Oklahoma City-based charity’s volunteers, employees and benefactors feverishly try to keep up with the changing needs of the rescue effort.

``This lady called in and said she wanted to donate money and food,″ said 16-year-old volunteer Ellie Griffin. ``Then she started crying and said she had lost someone in the bombing.″

``They’ll show pictures of the babies or bodies on television and everything will get real quiet and there will be tears,″ said Craig Conrad, supervising the phone room where some 40 employees and volunteers take responses to calls for donations. ``Then the phone rings, and then they just go back at it.″

Besides the usual donations of money, food, clothing and medical supplies, Feed The Children has been garnering items needed for rescuers working at the bombing site: trash bins, wheelbarrows, shovels, rope, flashlight batteries and other equipment.

As thunderstorms pelted rescue workers Saturday, the calls went out for heavy clothing, socks, ponchos and raincoats.

``Anything they ask for, we get it just like that,″ said Lois Miller, 44, a coordinator.

The Rev. Larry Jones, the group’s president, said: ``This is the first time we’ve had one right in our backyard.″

``This community has always been responsive, and they have really rallied for this,″ Jones said. There were no immediate estimates of donations, but they arrived ``by the tons,″ and more than 500 people have volunteered, he said.

``I think everybody in Oklahoma feels a really big need to somehow try to get some peace of mind for yourself that you’re doing something to help,″ said Katherine Chadrick, 29, who drove 300 miles with two friends from Leedey, Okla., to volunteer answering phones.

Area businesses have loaned vans, trailers and refrigerated trucks to help keep up with the donations.

Jones founded the nonprofit Christian organization, which now has more than $100 million a year in private support, in 1979 after being moved by the sight of hungry children during a visit to Haiti. With 175 full-time employees, the group has had feeding, development, medical and emergency relief programs across the United States and 68 foreign countries.

Among its largest emergency efforts have been sending millions of pounds of food and supplies after the Los Angeles earthquake, the Midwest flood and Hurricane Andrew in the United States. It also sent aid to Iranians after their 1990 earthquake and to Bosnian and Somali war victims.

Last year, the group helped a 14-year-old girl whose legs were blown off by a mortar blast in Bosnia come to the United States for medical treatment and artificial legs.

Jones has been to Bosnia twice. After seeing the bombing site, he said, ``Turn me around three times and then tell me to open my eyes, and I’d think I was in Bosnia.″

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