MILTON - A Central Pennsylvania based orphan outreach project is now offering Christmas postcards to help fund shipments of donated items to orphanages around the world in time for Christmas.
Father's Hope was created late last year by Kevin Mertz, of Milton, to ship or personally deliver small stuffed animals, greeting cards created by local youth and other items to orphanages around the world.
The Christmas postcards, which were created by 11-year-old Hanna Mensch, of Milton, are now being offered as a fundraiser to help cover the cost of shipping donations internationally.
The cards are available for a donation for a pack of 20 cards. All proceeds will benefit Father's Hope's mission.
The postcards are available weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 21 N. Arch St. Other arrangements to obtain the cards may be made by emailing Father's Hope at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations of small stuffed animals and jump ropes are now being accepted for Christmas-time shipments to orphanages in various countries. Mertz also plans to visit orphanages in Honduras in December with donations.
The donations may be dropped off at: Revival Tabernacle, 960 Susquehanna Trail, Watsontown; Keystone Power Washers Auto Detailing Center, located at the intersection of Routes 405 and 45 near Montandon; The UPS Store, 185 AJK Blvd., Lewisburg; The Milton Public Library, 541 Broadway St., Milton; and the Montgomery House Warrior Run Area Public Library, 20 Church St., McEwensville.
Since its founding, Father's Hope has touched the lives of more than 4,100 orphans in five countries.
In July, Mertz delivered donations to orphanages in and around Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
He was deeply moved to learn just how in need the orphanages are of donations of toys of any kind.
"After I returned home, I learned that the directors of three different orphanages had each traveled several hours from their orphanages to the mission house where I had been staying in the Dominican Republic, with plans to ask Father's Hope to come to their orphanages with donations of small stuffed animals," Mertz said.
He said the directors had arrived just one day after he had left the country.
Mertz hopes to be able to deliver stuffed animals in the future to those orphanages.
He said the efforts of those orphanage directors to locate him exemplifies how rare it is for orphans in some countries to ever receive toys.
"I have been told by several orphanages, in several different countries, which I have been in contact with as a result of this project that it is very rare for many of the children to receive a toy of any kind," Mertz said.
More than delivering toys to the orphans, Mertz said that through Father's Hope, the orphans are being shown how loved and special they are.
"In the Dominican Republic, I learned at two of the orphanages I visited that the children rarely receive visitors," Mertz said. "They were thrilled to receive the stuffed animals. Yet it meant even more to the children to know that someone cares about them."
Mertz credits the success of the project to the citizens of Central Pennsylvania, who continue to support Father's Hope in many different ways, including by donating the small stuffed animals, by creating hand-made cards, through financial contributions and in many other ways.
"This is a true community project and would not be possible without the generosity of the citizens of Central Pennsylvania who feel compelled to share their love with the orphans of the world," Mertz said. "I am very thankful for everyone who is supporting this effort in any way. They are the ones who are making this possible."
Father's Hope welcomes the opportunity to partner with, or make presentations to, local community organizations, youth groups, churches, schools and other community entities.
In recent weeks, Mertz has spoken about Father's Hope to the Kiwanis Club of Williamsport, the Milton Lions Club, the Watsontown Lioness Club and the Danville Rotary Club.