The opening of a new Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) building was like a “reunion of many long-time friends from all over Canada and the U.S.,” said MDS staff Jerry Klassen. Eight months after breaking ground, MDS dedicated the opening of the new binational office located at 583 Airport Road in Lititz, Pa., Nov. 13.
More than 700 people were in attendance for tours of the 14,700 square-foot facility which includes a multipurpose room with capacity for 165 volunteers, and a 6,000 square-foot warehouse for storing building supplies and emergency response equipment.
The celebration included addresses from Al Yoder, MDS board chair, and Kevin King, MDS executive director. Present were partner agency representatives from Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, and Lancaster Emergency Management Association (LEMA). Some 620 meals were served to volunteers, families, donors, vendors, suppliers, staff, and prayer supporters.
In February 2006, the MDS board of directors decided to increase staff capacity and facilities to train, equip, and leverage more volunteers to respond to disaster. Since Hurricane Katrina, the number of families MDS serves each year has more than doubled from 280 to 760.
The total value of the building is estimated at $3 million. Approximately $464,000 was booked from in-kind donations and volunteer labour. As many as 150 volunteers from Canada and the U.S. helped construct the new facility. To date, 90 percent of the funds have been raised or committed. Another $245,000 is still needed to complete the building project.
The celebration concluded with an MDS-style ribbon cutting.