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Kits draw praise at evening of service for BYU Women's Conference

Published: Friday, April 30 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Craig Nelson, front, helps load humanitarian kits as part of the evening of service.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

PROVO — Just days after Haiti's devastating earthquake, the washcloths, soap and toothbrushes in an LDS Humanitarian Center hygiene kit became much more than appreciated toiletries.

They were mini miracles.

"After the first full day, we ran out of everything, especially casting supplies," said Craig Nelson, a former missionary to Haiti who rushed to the island nation with several doctor friends.

But 50 hygiene kits from a Florida shipment allowed the group to create makeshift bandages that got them through until more supplies could be found.

"It was a miracle," Nelson said. "All those Scout projects, Women's Conference projects, you always hear about those. We actually used (the kits) for real."

Thursday night's evening of service for the 2010 Women's Conference found Nelson, whose wife was one of the conference volunteers, stacking boxes of completed newborn kits to be taken to the LDS Church's Humanitarian Center for future needs.

"I just hope what we're doing here will have the same result," he said. "To lighten the load."

Nearby, Cheryl Garner was overseeing a table of women busily tucking four cloth diapers and pins, socks, a hat, soap, a blanket and a baby gown into the newborn kits. Her husband, Gary, was one of the doctors who went to Haiti with Nelson.

Along the way, Gary Garner's bag got delayed, and he arrived with only the clothes on his back.

"He has never felt so much joy and happiness from a hygiene kit," Cheryl Garner said. "He loves toothbrushes, and he didn't have one (until that kit). He was singing the praises of the Relief Society."

Along with an appreciated toothbrush, the simple white soap was often all Garner had to sterilize patients before surgery, and the washcloths were used for anything and everything, Cheryl Garner said.

By the end of the conference, organizers hoped to have nearly 30,000 school, hygiene and newborn kits assembled.

It was a massive goal, but equal to the piles of cardboard boxes that towered in the corners in the Smith Field House.

As the night progressed, the piles of boxes slowly dwindled, quickly filled with the carefully packed bags of soap, diapers or notebooks and pencils.

"This is one of my favorite parts," said Teresa Carlson of Springville. Each year, Carlson's husband gives her two tickets to Women's Conference so she can bring a friend. "It's just a chance to hang out with the girls, do some good and hear uplifting messages," she said.

"This is something we love," said Stephanie Farnsworth of Gilbert, Ariz., looking at her mother and her sister who were working alongside her assembling towels for the hygiene kits. "To forget about ourselves and our laundry and fold someone else's."

"There's nowhere else in the world to feel this uplifting feeling of wanting to be better," her sister, Shauna Allen, added. "It's awesome to see women in numbers. There's power in numbers."

To read more about Nelson and Garner's work visit: www.deseretnews.com/article/705360551/Deseret-News-in-Haiti-Utah-doctors-share-tragedy-triumph-in-Haiti.html?pg=1

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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