Category Archives: Volunteer Updates

Shipment to Cameroon Africa

MRS partnered with Empowering Solutions of Delaware to ship a load of much needed medical supplies to Cameroon Africa.

Beds and other medical supplies ready to be loaded. Hospitals in the US often upgrade equipment and have no place but the dump for their useful pieces. Mission Relief Services gets them where they are needed.

A finished job. After a long day volunteers proudly pose in front of the truck with all of its contents of medical supplies for Cameroon, Africa.


Dr. Samba Tate, of Empowering Solutions, stands with his staff at the loading of a shipment to his native Cameroon.


It is always so helpful to have nurses and other medical staff go through boxes of donated medical supplies before they are shipped. Here, volunteers from Villanova’s nursing school serve such a key role at our load to Cameroon.


What is St Thomas of Villanova Day of Service?

St. Thomas of Villanova was known for his great charity to the poor and marginalized. The Villanova community celebrates its patron saint and his legacy of Caritas – Love – with an annual Day of Service in his name.

Each year, the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service brings together more than 3,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families working in partnership with neighborhood agencies to perform service throughout Greater Philadelphia. This annual event builds upon the great service performed throughout the year by the Villanova community and exists as a unique way to put its Augustinian ideals into action.

The History of Great White Fleet

Nearly a century ago, shipping fresh bananas and preventing them from ripening en route was a real challenge. The first banana shippers, relying on favorable winds could only hope that their cargo would not ripen before they reached port. When Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker sailed the fishing schooner Telegraph from Jamaica to Jersey City in 1870, with a load of 160 bunches on speculation, he stowed them on deck and waited for fair winds. His luck held, and he arrived in New Jersey 11 days later, where he sold them for a profit of $2.00 per bunch. This was the beginning of what is now known as Chiquita Brands International. Two other men who also had a dream were brought together by the banana. In 1871, Andrew Preston, a 21-year old produce dealer in Boston, bought part of Baker’s banana cargo. He quickly realized the potential of this new and exotic fruit in the United States, and began advertising through handbills. About the same time, Costa Rica wanted to build a national railway. Minor Cooper Keith, who undertook the project of building it, realized that bananas would be the perfect year-round crop to transport by rail to the port cities. He imported banana plants from Panama, which were then planted, matured and sold in New Orleans for a profit. Bananas were the answer to both cargo for the railroad and money for its completion.

In 1885, Baker and Preston set up the Boston Fruit Company, which in 1899 became the United Fruit Company. Boston Fruit signed an agreement in 1894 with Keith to sell his bananas in the United States north of Cape Hatteras, not only putting Boston Fruit in a remarkably strong marketing position but ensuring that their ships would be full.

By the turn of the century, steamships were beginning to replace sailing vessels. This meant more trips per season, and more profits. Equally important as increased speed was the introduction of mechanical refrigeration. Now fruit could be kept green until it arrived at market. Finally, market arrivals could be planned, volumes sold on a regular basis, and the market regularized.

The Great White Fleet name can be traced back to 1907, when President Teddy Roosevelt sent a fleet of warships on a worldwide tour. These ships were painted white instead of the now customary gray, and became known as the Great White Fleet. At the same time, Captain Baker also painted his ships white to reflect the tropical sunlight and allow banana temperatures to be more easily maintained. As the United Fruit Company fleet of big, fast, white-painted reefer vessels grew, they too became known as the Great White Fleet. Through peacetime and four wars, the reefer ships of United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita Brands International have sailed back and forth from the tropics to the United States, the Far East, the Middle East and Europe carrying the world’s most popular fruit out and bringing general cargo back. Today, cargo shippers to and from Central America only have to call the Great White Fleet to get the same superior service they have enjoyed for almost a century.

The Great White Fleet

The Great White Fleet is a charitable program operated by Chiquita Banana  and other fruit companies.  They ship fruit from Central America in large 40 foot containers which are unloaded in the United States.  On the return trip, Chiquita leases the containers to organizations such as Mission Relief  Services which ships much needed mission supplies to needy countries.

The origin of the name, Great White Fleet, dates to the early 1900’s when President Theodore Roosevelt painted a fleet of navy cruisers white.   This Great White Fleet toured Central America in a show of American diplomacy.

Chiquita allots two containers a year to each charitable organization which participates.  The two container allotment is obtained several times by Mission Relief Services by registering several of the charitable organizations with whom the Service works.  Last year, Trinity completed the paperwork necessary to become a Great White Fleet participant.

Chiquita Ships Fruit to the U.S. and Ships Mission Supplies to Honduras on the Return Trip.

Service Trip

Join us on our next trip.

We are now scheduling a Medical Mission trip
to Honduras July 15-22, 2007.

We love to have medical staff join but that is not a prerequisite.

Contact: Steve Mentzer
Phone: 717-299-4942

Volunteer describes Mission Trip to Honduras

Kathy Cooley is an energy-packed 51-year old who has been married for 30 years and has 2 sons. Since her now-grown sons started school, Kathy has been very active volunteering her time and talents to those non-profit organizations in the Susquehanna Valley that needed her skills.

She heard about the mission trip to Honduras from her friend, Steve Mentzer. The dates of the trip worked perfectly for her schedule. The dates fell right between one project that she had finished and a new project she was starting. She invited her good friend, Fran Swartwout, to go with her. Fran has a medical background with experience in healthcare and medical administration.

She jumped at the chance to share in the experience of distributing medical supplies.
Also, Fran spoke Spanish and was anxious to hone her language skills.  The two friends left Lancaster and met up with their travel mates (there were 12 people on this trip) at the Baltimore airport on Sunday, January 28th, 2007. They flew from Baltimore to Houston, Texas, and then on to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Kathy had a lot of thoughts on what she would find when the group arrived in Honduras. She expected very primitive conditions and oppressive poverty. Immediately, however, Kathy was impressed with the sense of hope and pride that the residents displayed. She also said that the role of the family and involvement of the children really stood out. “The children took part in all activities, including the church services” Kathy explained.

The three-day mission trip began on Monday with a clothes sorting day. The group was going to visit a different village each day and needed to have all clothes and supplies pre-sorted. On Tuesday, everyone traveled to Pespire the headquarters for the week, and the first of the 3 villages to be visited. Each of the days was spent distributing clothes to the residents and manning clinics in the different towns. In the evening, there was time to socialize with other members of the group on the rooftop garden restaurant at the hotel.

Friday, the group went back to the city of Tegucigalpa and toured a farmer’s market and the city hospital. Kathy remarked that this was an eye-opener for her. The building was old and their supplies were very meager and very outdated. She was making a mental list of all the supplies that were needed, from portable air conditioners to bed sheets to medicine.

Saturday was an open day and most of the group got to know the city and the surrounding area. Sunday, the group traveled back to Lancaster via Houston and Baltimore. While the days were filled with memory-making experiences, Kathy said she always felt that there was time to rest and get to know the people and the country. She would not want anyone to pass up this trip because it sounds too demanding. “There were many retired people on this trip and no-one felt pushed or overwhelmed. The days’ schedules were a good balance,” Kathy replied.  Kathy is already talking about the next time she travels to Honduras. When she was first planning her trip, she expected it to be a one-time experience. But, somehow the experience left her wanting to get to know these very gracious people better.