Volunteers with the Flagstaff International Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.) are very busy getting warm clothing ready for shipment to Mongolia.
Last year, more than a ton of clothing and other relief items were shipped to Mongolia in September and hand delivered to those in need in November.
The eight tons of clothing for the 2004 trip were collected in only a few months. Most of the clothing was used items donated by the warm and generous community of Flagstaff.
The nonprofit organization is currently committed to shipping two 40-foot containers by July 18, said Meredith Potts, FIRE executive director.
"That means we have 500 boxes left to pack," she said. "We are in serious need of some packing!"
Mongolia's winter is extreme; the capital city, Ulaan, is the coldest capital in the world. To survive, many of the homeless live in the heating ducts below the nations cities. Warm, well-made clothing can allow a child to go to school or an adult to go to work, and, in some cases, literally save a life.
In addition to winter clothing, volunteers will be packing shoes, baby clothes, crutches, wheelchairs, blankets, bedding, vitamin supplements, stuffed animals, medical supplies, sleeping bags and toys for children.
The relief effort was started in 1993 by David Edwards, an internationally-known local photographer. The effort is run out of his studio downtown.
"I think it's great to see a community come together for a noble cause and the support that I've seen first hand has been incredible, especially from such a small city," said Marcus Sabini, assistant manager of Edward's photo studio and a FIRE volunteer.
Four more packing parties have been scheduled for this summer: This Saturday and Sunday and Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17. All packing parties are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the FIRE warehouse storage space. To get to the storage unit, take Route 66 to Steves, turn south on to Steves, crossing the tracks. Turn right on to Industrial and take the first left. The FIRE unit is toward the end of the building on the left.
Lunch, water and coffee from Late for the Train will be provided. Volunteers should call 779-1966 to reserve a lunch.
New soft play area
for children at mall
Flagstaff Mall unveiled a new family-friendly attraction at the end of May: A new children's soft- play area, Camp Wannaplay. The play area will be a permanent attraction at the mall.
Located near J.C. Penney, the 1,100-square-foot, kidney-shaped play area features camping elements representing the great northern Arizona outdoors. The oversized, child-friendly elements include a pine tree mountain, tent and bridge, with tunnels, slides and climbing features.
So far, the indoor play area, has been a big success.
On her way to work early yesterday morning, Lori Pappas, senior manager of marketing at the mall, walked by the area.
"Typically after a holiday things are a little sluggish," she said. "Today, just walking toward J.C. Penney, you could see the moms sitting on the benches and, literally, the play area was full. The kids were laughing and smiling."
Pappas, a mother of young children, noted that Flagstaff's outdoor play areas are sometimes too hot or windy for young children. The new soft-play area is a fun alternative.
"The parents don't have the wind to contend with, and the kids can get some exercise," she said. "It's a win-win, not just for the shopping center, but for the community."
Pappas said the flooring is so spongy and soft, it's kind of like walking on the moon.
"It's just a very safe program," she concluded.
Send your community news to Betsey Bruner, community editor: By phone, 556-2255, fax (in the newsroom), 774-4790 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.