A passage through the streets of India last year with a humanitarian group opened Rose Ann Gunther's eyes to the reality of poverty.

"I would have made the mistake of my life if I would not have gone," says Gunther. "I want them to see we care; that we are willing to serve and sacrifice and bless their lives."For the past several years, Rose Ann and her husband, Dale, have donated money to CARE, one of the world's largest private relief and development organizations. Now, the American Fork resident is spearheading a campaign to send nearly 8,500 "care packages" to such places as Tanzania, Somalia, Sudan, Ghana and Egypt.

Volunteers from Highland, American Fork, Alpine and other surrounding Utah County cities are putting together some 2,260 bundles of clean sheets, clothing, personal hygiene items and diapers to help village women give birth in nearly any circumstance.

"All of this is not commercial. Women are doing this by hand, using serging machines," Gunther said. "They need something that will sustain so they can use it for years to come down the road."

More than 6,000 education kits, filled with notebooks, pencils, clothes and chalkboards also are being put together to be shipped this fall. CARE promotes education programs in impoverished countries and takes special interest in making sure girls are encouraged to attend school, she said.

Gunther hopes to have all the supplies sent to scheduled destinations by January.

"There are so many people who are willing to help," Gunther said. "I believe we can cover the bases and I believe it is something we all can do."

Babette McDougal, spokeswoman for the western region of CARE, said Gunther's enthusiasm is contagious. McDougal, speaking from a San Francisco office, accompanied Gunther's family and other CARE donors to India last year.

"Her suitcases were filled with birthing kits," she said. "I thought, `Rose Ann, what a great idea.' I'd never thought of that."

CARE, then known as the "Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe," was founded in 1945 to send relief supplies to Europe and Asia after World War II. Hollywood celebrities including Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman urged Americans in slick publicity stunts to support CARE.

President Harry Truman sent the first shipment of supplies - packed in plain brown boxes - to Le Havre, France, on May 11, 1946. Eventually, some 100 million packages were sent overseas.

In the 1960s, CARE's focus altered from sending war-torn countries packages to helping the poorest of the poor. The group changed its acronym to stand for "Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere."

More than 1 billion people in 126 countries have since been helped through disaster relief efforts and programs in agriculture and environment, business, education, health and nutrition and family planning.

In 1997, CARE estimates it provided $317 million in assistance to more than 24.4 million people in developing countries.

"The whole international community often turns to CARE to lead the effort," McDougal said.