Frequently Asked Questions

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General LWR FAQs
General LWR Questions
Church, History & Lutheran Faith
Giving and Donations
Emergencies and Development Program FAQs
International Programs
Emergency and Disaster Operations
Quilt & Kit Ministry FAQs
General Questions about LWR's Quilt & Kit Ministry
School Kits
Personal Care Kits
Baby Care Kits
Fabric Kits
Quilt & Kit Tracker
Fair Trade FAQs
General Questions about Fair Trade
Fair Trade Coffee
Fair Trade Chocolate
Ordering Fair Trade Products
Lutheran Malaria Initiative FAQs
The Lutheran Malaria Initiative

General LWR FAQs

General LWR Questions

What is the total number of LWR staff?

LWR staff worldwide is approximately 150 people.

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How does LWR hire staff in the areas where you work – contract, partnerships?

LWR’s philosophy in relief and development involves building upon the strengths of local organizations. LWR accordingly has a lower staffing level than do many other organizations. The typical structure of a regional office includes a country program manager in charge of project management and accompaniment with local partners, as well as various administrative and financial support staff. Other staff are brought on as necessary/needed and as a part of specific grants.

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Can I get a job or volunteer with LWR overseas?

LWR employs a limited number of people overseas because it works with local agencies, staffed by local people. Participation in projects is non-operational ― that is, LWR staff members do not implement the work of the project; they cooperate with local agencies and individuals to see that the tasks are accomplished. This ensures that people are prepared to take initiative and responsibility when LWR is no longer present.

View Current Employment Opportunities

For volunteer opportunities abroad contact the two church bodies that help support LWR: ELCA, 1-800-638-3522, or LCMS, 1-800-248-1930.

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Church, History and Lutheran Faith

Does LWR evangelize?

LWR is a signatory to the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Code of Conduct, which states that “Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious viewpoint.” This commitment often permits LWR to work in areas prohibited to other church groups. We view our work as an expression of faith in action, acting as Christ’s hands in the world by serving people in need without regard for religious affiliation.

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What’s the difference between LWR and the ELCA World Hunger Appeal?

LWR and ELCA World Hunger Appeal share the same goals but have different roles and responsibilities. LWR carries out material aid distribution, relief and development programs overseas, working with a variety of local partners in any given country, including churches, faith-based agencies, and non-governmental organizations. LWR receives financial support from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America through the World Hunger Appeal to carry out its work.

The ELCA World Hunger Appeal is the ELCA-designated congregational fundraiser for its institutional partners engaged in anti-hunger work, including LWR, the Lutheran World Federation and domestic Lutheran organizations. The World Hunger Appeal provides information and educational materials for congregations on issues related to hunger and poverty.

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What’s the difference between LWR and LCMS World Relief and Human Care?

LCMS World Relief and Human Care provides domestic, international, and disaster assistance. Its ministries include Life Ministries, Health Ministries, Social Ministry Organizations, Institutional Chaplaincy, Deaconess Ministry, Disability Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, Disaster Response, Mercy Medical Teams, Lutheran Housing Support, and Districts and Congregational Program Assistance. LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s international ministries include funding to LCMS World Mission, LWR, and development projects with LCMS partner churches around the world.

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Is LWR affiliated with the new North American Lutheran Church (NALC)?

LWR is open and welcoming to all who share our vision and mission. LWR has a historic and ongoing relationship with the ELCA and LCMS church institutions, as well as with many of their individual churches and members. The leadership of the emerging NALC and CORE organizations have expressed interest in LWR’s mission and in making LWR accessible to their members, and LWR has responded by welcoming the participation of any NALC or CORE individual or congregation that wishes to engage with LWR.  LWR currently does not have a formal relationship with these emerging church organizations, but this may be considered in the future.

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When was LWR formed and why?

LWR was created in 1945 to provide relief to Europe after World War II by shipping material resources that Lutheran congregations gathered. Its founding body was the National Lutheran Church Council, whose members included eight American Lutheran church bodies, and it was incorporated as an independent agency, legally separate from, but governed by, NLC member churches.

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How is LWR funded

LWR receives funding from individuals, congregations and congregational groups in addition to support by the two major Lutheran church bodies, the Lutheran Church―Missouri Synod (LCMS) World Relief and Human Care and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) World Hunger Appeal. Additional funding comes through charitable foundations and from U.S. government grants.

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What is the percentage of each donor dollar that goes to administration and fundraising? How much goes to programming?

During the 2012 fiscal year, approximately 89% of each dollar spent by LWR was spent on programs. The remainder covers supporting services (Management & General – 5% and Fundraising – 6%). This administration and fundraising rate compares favorably to similar organizations that raise funds in the same manner and for the same purposes as LWR.

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How do government grants affect your bottom line?

5% of LWR’s total support and revenue came from the U.S. government in fiscal year 2011.

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What percentage of your income comes from the ELCA and LCMS church bodies? How much comes from individual giving?

During fiscal year 2011, approximately 10% of LWR’s total support and revenue came from the ELCA and LCMS combined (7.6% from ELCA and 2.7% from LCMS).

Including contributed material aid, individuals and parish groups provided 2/3 of LWR’s total support and revenue in fiscal year 2011, split almost evenly between cash contributions and in-kind.

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Giving and Donations

Can we designate funds for specific projects?

Making an undesignated gift allows LWR to use your resources where they’re needed the most, giving us the most flexibility to reach as many people as possible and giving you the most bang for your buck.

However, you may designate funds for specific programs if you choose. You may choose from these established designated funds:

  • Water
  • Hunger
  • the Lutheran Malaria Initiative
  • Regions (Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America)
  • Specific emergencies

Most of our projects are holistic in nature and address myriad community struggles. We share the impact of gifts we receive through stories in the LWR Special Reports newsletter, LWR e-news, in videos and on our website.

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Can we designate our gift to a specific emergency?

Yes, as long as LWR is responding to that emergency. All gifts designated for emergencies are used for that response until the needs there are met. If we receive more funding than we are able to program, those funds will be used where needs are greatest.

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Where can I get more information about how you use the donations you receive?

LWR takes seriously issues of accountability and stewardship regarding the funds entrusted to us. With that in mind, LWR’s finances (including all salaries) are audited each year by an external firm according to generally accepted accounting principles. Our most recent audited financial statement and LWR’s 990 IRS Form are available at

Because we take stewardship and accountability so seriously, LWR has worked hard to ensure that we consistently meet and exceed financial, ethical, reporting and excellence standards set by several national and international charity watchdog agencies including:

  • the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance,
  • InterAction
  • Guidestar
  • Charity Navigator
  • CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy).

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Can I buy an animal as a form of alternative giving?

Yes! Log on to to learn more or request a current LWR Gifts Catalog. You may also order by phone at 800-597-5972.

Can we sponsor a child?

People are often drawn to child sponsorship programs because they seem very personal and nurturing. LWR believes that it is more effective to work in a holistic way – with entire families, communities and regions. We’ve seen that sponsorship programs can foster dependence rather than independence, and  while sponsoring a child can seem intimate and fulfilling, empowering a community to be self-sufficient long after our projects have ended is even more gratifying. In addition, child sponsorship programs require more staffing, tracking, etc., which often leads to higher overhead costs.

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Emergencies and Development Program FAQs

International Programs

Where does LWR work?

LWR’s sustainable development work is segmented into three regions:

Latin America

  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Peru


  • Burkina Faso
  • Kenya
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

Asia and the Middle East

  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Nepal
  • Palestine
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka

In addition, our emergency response to disasters, the distribution of Quilts and Kits, and our work in Fair Trade extends LWR’s reach into several other countries throughout the world (these vary year-to-year).

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How does LWR decide where to work?

In LWR’s focus countries, a local LWR staff member works with potential partners (farmers groups, village organization, etc) to determine the

  • receptivity of the people and government
  • extent of need by the poor
  • possible ongoing initiatives with other organizations to avoid duplicating efforts and assess potential collaboration
  • availability of qualified staff and adequate resources to see the program completed

Although LWR goes to areas because of special needs (lack of clean water or food, for instance), all projects begin with and build on the communities’ assets (their own resources, experience and wisdom). Projects are designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated with active participation from the entire community, especially its most vulnerable members. Local ownership results in successful projects.

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What is accompaniment?

LWR believes that we are all on the same path for a life of peace and dignity. By walking together with our partners (rather than “doing for” them), we achieve more powerful changes for communities and individuals. 

One way LWR does this is by recognizing that communities ― no matter how poor ― already have resources and assets that can be harnessed for their wellbeing. Building on these assets, LWR establishes a relationship with local partners based on mutual trust and respect to create a flexible plan to improve the wellbeing of the poor.

The tools of accompaniment include:

  • Open dialogue between LWR and the partner;
  • LWR and partner assess what each brings to the relationship;
  • LWR helps the partner to assess its ability to carry out relief and development projects in specific areas and to strengthen its ability to do so;
  • LWR reviews with the progress, financial, audit and evaluation findings with the partner.
  • ‘Walking with’ the partner by providing support and advice throughout project implementation and after;
  • Providing training and hosting conferences and workshops;
  • Making periodic visits to the partner to document and share lessons learned.

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Emergency and Disaster Response

How does LWR respond to emergencies?

Lutheran World Relief responds to emergencies when the severity of the situation exceeds the ability of local people to cope and the ability of local, state, and national organizations and governments to respond.LWR prioritizes response to emergencies in the countries and regions where we work, specifically focusing on areas where LWR partners and communities are located. When responding to a disaster, LWR prefers to work through local partners in our focus countries.When local partners do not have the capacity to respond, LWR also works with international organizations, such as Action by Churches Together.LWR also responds to large-scale disasters anywhere in the world as resources permit.

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What is ACT?

ACT stands for Action by Churches Together, which is a global network of churches and church-related NGOs, working to save lives and support communities during emergencies. As a member of ACT, LWR provides a range of contributions, including funds, policy, governance, communication, and connections to local partners.

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How does LWR ensure the emergency relief or disaster aid gets to those who need it?

LWR shares has a strong desire to provide aid in the most efficient and effective manner following an emergency.

LWR works with local partners and organizations on the ground who help ensure

  • the response is focused in the affected areas
  • the community leaders are involved and have determined an appropriate response
  • the project meets meet relevant professional international standards and guidelines
  • regular reporting on the use of funds and impacts on the community

Depending on the situation, LWR staff may be involved in monitoring the response.They work and talk with community members and leaders and representatives from the local partners to review progress and ensure the assistance is working to help the community.

After a time period, some projects go through formal evaluations to determine results and lessons learned that can be used in future emergencies.

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How does LWR respond with Quilts or Kits to a disaster?

LWR often responds to a disaster with Quilts and Kits. However, that is determined on a case by case basis depending on accessibility, partners, need, etc. Material response is always part of LWR’s initial assessment.

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Does LWR recruit U.S. volunteers for a disaster?

LWR relies on field staff, partners, and local volunteers to respond to emergencies as a way to maintain efficiency, expertise and empowerment. Folks interested in volunteering in disaster response are encouraged to do so through their church body (ELCA, LCMS, NALC, etc) or through the Red Cross.

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Why doesn’t LWR work in the U.S.?

LWR has expanded its projects and ministries all around the world, seeking to improve the lives of the most marginalized populations. This means that LWR’s work has focused on very remote regions within developing countries, perfecting its techniques and capabilities overseas. As mandated by our founding Lutheran church bodies, we’ve remained an international humanitarian organization in order to be the most effective and have the greatest impact. Since LWR’s niche is overseas relief and development work, LWR relies on domestic agencies, such as Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Social Services and Habitat for Humanity to address those in need in the U.S.

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Quilt & Kit Ministry FAQs

General Questions about LWR's Quilt & Kit Ministry

Where do we send Quilts and Kits for LWR?

LWR has two warehouses that receive, process, store and ship material resources year-round. Their addresses are:

Lutheran World Relief
398 E. Richmond Street
South St. Paul, MN 55075

Lutheran World Relief
601 Main Street
New Windsor, MD 21776

If you are bringing the items to the warehouse, we recommend you call the warehouse for verification of hours before making a delivery.Please include your name or name of church, address and contents (big and clear letters) on the outside of the box.

Depending on your location, you may be near an Ingathering (local collection) site. Ingatherings take place around the country and are organized by local volunteers. You can check our Ingathering map and enter your zip code to find the closest site.

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Is there an inexpensive way to ship Quilts and Kits to the LWR warehouse?

Yes! Around the U.S., dedicated volunteers organize what we call an Ingathering, which is an opportunity for several groups from a region to drop off Quilt and Kit donations to be delivered together. Volunteer coordinators (Key Leaders) generally arrange for a truck, which is filled with donations and driven to the nearest LWR warehouse. Contributions to help cover the cost of the truck vary from site to site, so check with your local Key Leader to get the details. Find an ingathering near you on our new, interactive ingathering map and contact the Key Leader listed for more details.

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When is the next LWR ingathering in my area?

Go to to search for a local ingathering (a drop off site for local churches to take Quilts and Kits). The map is updated as we receive information from the local volunteers, we call Key Leaders, who organize Ingatherings. Information from the previous year will be left on the map for reference until current information is provided by Key Leaders. In general, Ingatherings take place around the same time and in the same locations year to year.

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May we insert religious symbols and tracts with our gifts?

We ask that you do not include any religious symbols or messages with your congregation’s name. LWR provides Quilts and Kits based on need, regardless of religious creed. In some situations including religious symbol or messages will jeopardize the delivery to people who most need the items.

For more information, please see our General Assembly Instructions

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Can we use plastic bags for LWR Kits?

Please do not package any of the Kits or their contents in plastic bags. Plastic bags tend to trap air inside of them, thereby causing the bags to take up more space in the shipping cartons, making it difficult to pack consistent quantities of Kits in the boxes. Also, in many of the countries where we distribute Kits, there is no infrastructure for garbage disposal, and discarded plastic becomes hazardous to the people, animals and environment.

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Does LWR collect blankets?

Quilts are highly preferred for their handmade quality and warmth, but we do accept new and like-new (no stains or tears) blankets measuring approximately 60” X 80”. We do not accept electric blankets or afghans. Blankets should be packed separately from Quilts when sending them to LWR.

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How does LWR determine where Quilts and Kits go?

LWR has partners around the world who are on the ground working closely with people in the projects we support. Those partners send us requests for Quilts and Kits when they see a particularly great need or opportunity for the items to make a real difference.

LWR weighs those requests against our supply at the time and we send the Quilts and Kits where they are most needed. We also reserve a certain number in our warehouses for emergency relief efforts so that we are able to respond immediately to an event such as an earthquake. See where LWR Quilts and Kits went in 2011 (.pdf).

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How do you make sure our Quilts and Kits get to people who need them?

LWR works only with experienced, reputable agencies that can manage large volumes of humanitarian aid items. All partner agencies must sign an agreement with LWR stating they will follow their stated distribution plan, and will seek approval from LWR in writing if any changes are necessary. The agreement also requires all partners to adhere to established international humanitarian guidelines (such as the Red Cross Code of Conduct), as well as local, national and U.S. law.

Agencies requesting aid make all the necessary arrangements for reception of the items: customs clearance without any import taxes; unloading and transporting materials; safely storing the materials; and distributing them to the appropriate communities.

As soon as materials arrive, LWR receives a report that details whether any items were missing or damaged. Once distribution is complete, partners submit End Use Reports, often with stories and photographs. Partners are not eligible to receive further materials until an acceptable End Use Report is filed with LWR.

Finally, several times each year, LWR staff visit partner agencies. Each visit includes a review of distribution records, a visit to the partner’s warehouse and travel to communities who received the Kits or Quilts. The purpose of these visits is to determine whether the partners follow LWR guidelines, and ensure the materials were necessary and useful to recipients.

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How long do LWR Quilts and Kits sit in the warehouse before they are sent overseas?

Depending on current need, nearly all LWR materials are shipped within six months. Often, materials are shipped almost as soon as they are processed. On average, materials spend 4-6 weeks being transported by ocean freight before reaching LWR’s partner agencies.

Our February 2010 issue of LWR News has a useful visual representation and description of the quilts and kits pipeline.

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How much money does LWR spend on shipping Quilts and Kits?

Each year LWR spends nearly $1.7 million to operate its Quilt & Kit Ministry. Those funds, combined with the generosity of quilters and kit-makers throughout the United States, enable LWR to distribute more than $12 million worth of Quilts and Kits annually. Contributions to LWR’s Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund, and bricks sponsored on the Good Samaritan Quilt Plaza at LWR’s headquarters help cover this cost.

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What is the Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund (or Project Comfort Fund)? Does our group have to contribute to this fund when we contribute our Quilts and Kits?

The Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund goes toward the costs associated with shipping Quilts and Kits overseas (this fund was previously named the Project Comfort Fund). We know that quilters and kit-makers put a lot of time, energy and resources into making Quilts and Kits. Rather than the quilters and kit-makers contributing to the fund, encourage those in the congregation who may not be able to participate in this ministry in a hands-on way to support it through contributions to the Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund.

Learn more »

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Why did the guidelines for LWR Quilts and Kits change?

In 2010, Lutheran World Relief conducted an in-depth evaluation of our Quilt & Kit Ministry. We interviewed more than 450 Quilt and Kit recipients, 21 overseas partner organizations and more than 1,000 of our dedicated quilters and kit-makers throughout the U.S. We’re pleased to report that, overall, our Quilts and Kits are effective and that with a few small tweaks they can do an even better job meeting people’s needs. The new Quilt & Kit Ministry Guide 2012-13 provides the most current information.

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How can I get more people in my congregation involved in LWR Quilts & Kits?

Consider including information about the Quilt & Kit Ministry in your bulletin or church newsletter. Lead an adult forum during the Sunday school hour—share the new Quilt & Kit Ministry Guide 2012-13 and copies of the Faith in Action newsletters. Organize an intergenerational quilting or kit-making event to introduce the ministry to your congregation. Others can also take part by generously supporting the Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund.

Order Resources »

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Some people in my congregation want to help make Quilts or Kits, but their schedules don’t allow them to attend our quilting or kit-making sessions. How else can they be involved?

Consider putting together “quilt top kits” with squares cut to size and instructions for piecing a top together. Bundle the kits together and make them available to those in the congregation who may be interested in taking the tops home to complete.

You can also provide shopping lists for the items you need to complete Kits and include them in Sunday bulletins for members to take home. They can collect the supplies during the week and bring them to church on Sunday. Set a project timeline and make a basket available in the narthex or during the offering each week to collect the donated supplies.

Ask your congregation to “sponsor” Quilts and Kits by covering the associated shipping costs. When displaying your Quilts and Kits during your Quilt & Kit Dedication Sunday, pin an envelope to each one and invite members to choose which ones they would like to “sponsor” by inserting the designated Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund amount into the attached envelope. Before sending your Quilts and Kits to LWR, remove the envelopes, compile the funds and send a check to LWR for the Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund.

Order Resources »

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School Kits

Where can we find backpack-style bags to purchase for School Kits?

This style is often used in the U.S. for youth to carry athletic equipment. Try your local sporting goods store or search online using the keywords, “buy drawstring backpacks.” Before purchasing, make sure they meet the new size requirements (14" x17") and General Assembly Instructions. We also have a list of suppliers who have appropriate bags available for purchase in bulk.

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Personal Care Kits

Bath-size towels are expensive. How can we afford to make as many Personal Care Kits as we used to?

Be sure to shop for light- or medium-weight towels, which are easier for Kit recipients to hand wash and air dry, take up less storage space and are considerably less expensive than the fluffier towels we may prefer to use. In our cost analysis, we found lighter-weight bath-size towels cost about the same as a washcloth and hand towel combined. Check your local dollar stores or warehouse clubs for affordable options.

Bath towels vary in size. The 52" X 27" size listed in the guidelines is the maximum size. 20" x 40" is a good guideline for a minimum size. Smaller bath towels are acceptable as long as they are not hand towels.

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Do the nail clippers have to have files attached?

Clippers with or without files are acceptable.

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Baby Care Kits

What is the importance of the no stains policy on any of the used items in the Baby Care Kits?

As a part of the LWR value of accompaniment, we strive to ensure every person who receives an LWR Quilt or Kit is treated with equity, dignity and respect. When people have lost so much, receiving an item that appears cast-off can add to their suffering. Also, used clothing is increasingly difficult to get through customs in many countries. Even one item that looks worn or stained to local officials can jeopardize the status of a whole shipment.

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Do you have any tips for Footless Sleepers?

  • Trim the feet off footed sleepers and the bottom portion off Onesies, and finish the raw edges with a hem or serger.
  • Replace the sleepers with a shirt and pair of pants.
  • Replace the sleepers with gowns.

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Fabric Kits

Can you clarify the requirements for fabric?

The fabric pieces don’t need to be the same color, pattern or size, as long as they each fit one of the three size options in the guidelines. Each spool of thread should match one of the fabric pieces included. Neutral thread is also a good option.

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Quilt & Kit Tracker

Are we required to use the Quilt & Kit Tracker?

Absolutely not! Of course, we would love for you to use it, but the Quilt & Kit Tracker is completely optional and not required to send Quilts and Kits. The question “Where do our Quilts and Kits go?” is the question we get asked the most often, so we developed this system to help answer that question!

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How do we use the Quilt & Kit Tracker?

We’ve developed a Quilt & Kit Tracker How To Guide, which you can download and print. We also have a video tutorial that walks you through the process step by step.

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How long does it take for Quilts & Kits to appear in the Tracker?

Your items won’t appear in the Tracker until they are scanned at the warehouses in Minnesota or Maryland, which may take a month or more after arrival. With our Ingatherings, fall and spring are especially busy times at the warehouse, so please be extra patient during these times!

To learn more about all the steps between the time Quilts and Kits leave your hands to the time they reach recipients’ hands, you can check out the Quilt & Kit Pipeline at

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How long does it take for Quilts & Kits to be shipped around the world?

Quilts and Kits are shipped overseas in the order they arrive and this part of the process can take two to six months. This is a result of many factors, from working with our partners to determine the best shipping time, to keeping the warehouse well-stocked to ensure speedy and efficient response to a crisis or emergency. To learn more about the Quilt & Kit Pipeline, go to

For more information, please see our General Assembly Instructions

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Will all of our Quilts or Kits ship out at the same time?

Not necessarily. If you’ve sent more than one type of Kit and/or Quilts, they are likely to ship out at different times and to different countries because our partners generally request one or two items at a time and our stock of each item varies. Don’t worry if you only see that part of your donation has shipped; the other items are likely to ship within a few weeks.

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Can we request that our Quilts & Kits go to specific countries?

We do not accept requests for your donations to go to specific countries. We work with our partners overseas to determine where and what items are most needed.

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Can we find out where our Quilts & Kits went within a country?

The Quilt & Kit Tracker is only reports the date Quilts & Kits leave the U.S. and the destination country. Our overseas partners do not have the technology to use bar code scanners. Once a shipment arrives in the destination country, LWR is issued an arrival receipt. After the distribution is completed, we receive a final report from our partner with the distribution dates, distribution location, description of recipients and how the Quilts and Kits impact the community/recipients.

Some additional information is available through our Quilt & Kit Distribution Map. The map shows when a shipment has left the U.S., arrived in the destination country, and when the distribution is complete, will include stories and photos as they become available from LWR’s partners.

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Will we receive e-mail alerts when our Quilts & Kits are scanned at the warehouse and/or shipped?

Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to send email alerts through the Quilt & Kit Tracker. Please check the Tracker periodically to see where if you items have been scanned and/or shipped.

As soon as materials arrive, LWR receives a report that details whether any items were missing or damaged. Once distribution is complete, partners submit End Use Reports, often with stories and photographs. Partners are not eligible to receive further materials until an acceptable End Use Report is filed with LWR.

Finally, several times each year, LWR staff visit partner agencies. Each visit includes a review of distribution records, a visit to the partner’s warehouse and travel to communities who received the Kits or Quilts. The purpose of these visits is to determine whether the partners follow LWR guidelines, and ensure the materials were necessary and useful to recipients.

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Can we include any personal or religious messages in the boxes?

We ask that you do not include any religious symbols or messages with your congregation’s name. LWR provides Quilts and Kits based on need, regardless of religious creed. In some situations, religious symbols or messages will jeopardize the delivery to people who most need the items.

For more information, please see our General Assembly Instructions.

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Fair Trade FAQs

General Questions about Fair Trade

Who are LWR’s Fair Trade partners and what do they do?

Our partner for the LWR Coffee Project is Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative dedicated to Fair Trade. Equal Exchange was founded over 20 years ago with the intent to build a better food system, one that supports family farms, organic methods, democratically-run cooperatives, and honesty and fairness in the trade of high quality food.

Equal Exchange makes a long-term commitment to the farmer associations they work with. They negotiate fair prices with the farmers based on actual production costs, cost of living, product quality and the quantity. Equal Exchange pays part of the contract up front (providing credit) and pays a social premium. The association agrees to invest this premium in services for their members and communities, such as water systems, roads, education and medical care.

For each pound of coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar and snacks purchased through LWR, Equal Exchange donates $.20 to the LWR Small Farmer Fund, which supports LWR’s projects with small-scale coffee farmers.

Our partner for the LWR Chocolate Project is SERRV, a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty by providing opportunity and support to farmers worldwide. SERRV, who imports, packages and distributes Divine Chocolate, has worked to help farmers for more than 55 years by marketing their products in a just and direct manner. SERRV donates 4% of annual LWR Chocolate Project sales to Lutheran World Relief to support our projects.

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Why does LWR support Fair Trade?

The answer is simple: Fair Trade is in line with Lutheran theology and our values, and it serves our mission of ending poverty, injustice and human suffering.

Fair Trade not only ensures that people get fair prices for their quality products, it also gives them the tools they need to work their way out of poverty:

  • Access to credit, which allows them to build up their businesses
  • Skills training and education
  • Collective power to negotiate better prices and to help members ride out hard times
  • Financial support for community development programs like schools, health clinics and public wells

The Fair Trade system encourages and teaches farmers to diversify and to use environmentally friendly farming practices, which leads to food security, better nutrition and higher soil quality.

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How can I support Fair Trade?

  1. Buy coffee or chocolate through LWR’s Fair Trade Projects (of course!), and explore other Fair Trade product choices.
  2. Choose Fair Trade products over those that do not meet Fair Trade standards, and encourage others to do so.
  3. Host a Fair Trade Fair or Fair Trade coffee and chocolate tasting at your church, office or club.
  4. Contact the managers of your local grocery store and coffee shop and ask to see Fair Trade products on their shelves or menu.

By increasing awareness of and consumer demand for Fair Trade items, you are helping small-scale farmers around the world.

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Are Fair Trade products more expensive than similar, conventional products?

Not necessarily. Fair Trade products can cost less, the same, or slightly more than conventionally-traded products of similar quality because—even though the initial price paid to the farmers is higher—Fair Trade cuts out some of the middlemen between producers and consumers. This keeps costs down. However, because most Fair Trade items are produced in small batches, the price per item can be higher. When Fair Trade products do cost more, keep in mind that the extra money you are spending is going to small scale farmers and toward the betterment of their communities. For many, the additional cost is minimal in light of this extra benefit.

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What is the difference between Fair Trade and free trade?

The theory of free trade contends that if everyone has equal access to markets and all barriers to trade are removed (tariffs, taxes, etc.), everyone in the world will eventually benefit from paying lower prices for what they need. The point of free trade is to buy and distribute goods as cheaply as possible, and benefit is measured only in terms of money. In this model, large corporations from industrialized countries tend to win and small-scale producers tend to lose.

Fair Trade recognizes that true free trade does not exist in this world because producers do not all have equal access to markets. Small scale farmers in poor, rural regions of the world simply do not have access to the information, capital and organization that would give them a chance at competing against large, powerful corporations. Fair Trade aims to level the playing field by helping these small producers form associations so they can compete in the world market.

Fair Trade places value on people’s well-being and measures benefits not only in terms of money but also in human and moral terms such as:

  • Sustainability (making sure trade arrangements help everyone survive)
  • Human development (giving people a chance to improve their life)
  • Good stewardship of the environment (keeping resources viable for future generations)
  • Supporting equal rights for women
  • Opposing child labor and slavery

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Fair Trade Coffee

Is Fair Trade coffee also organic or shade-grown?

Fair Trade certification alone does not guarantee that products are organic or shade-grown. However, the majority of Fair Trade coffee does fall into one or both of these categories. Many of the small scale-farmers that sell coffee to Equal Exchange have cultivated coffee on the same small plots of land that their parents and grandparents used to plant coffee trees. They know that growing their coffee in ways that preserve the ecosystem will allow them to continue farming high-quality coffee on that land for years to come.

Equal Exchange’s organic products are certified organic by Oregon Tilth, a USDA-licensed certifying organization; however, coffee farmers seek organic certification from a variety of different certifying bodies depending on their nationality and the nationality of their target markets. Organic coffee production encourages multiple layers of shade coverage.

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Can individuals participate in the LWR Project, or just congregations?

Individuals are welcome to order coffee! When purchasing through the online store, just type “LWR COFFEE PROJECT” in the box that asks for your Congregation/Organization.

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Why does LWR partner with Equal Exchange, a for-profit company?

LWR values its partnership with Equal Exchange because of Equal Exchange’s mission-based business model and commitment to Fair Trade standards. (It is America’s oldest and largest 100% Fair Trade coffee roaster.) Like its coffee-farming partners overseas, Equal Exchange is a worker-owned cooperative. It builds long-term relationships with the coffee farming cooperatives. And, Equal Exchange donates a portion of the proceeds from coffee purchased through the LWR Coffee Project to our Small Farmer Fund, to support projects that help small farmers.

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Is it okay to sell coffee at church? I thought Jesus overturned the tables of the merchants in the temple.

In the Bible, the moneychangers outside the Temple were extorting the people who were coming to the Temple to worship. They were taking advantage of others’ plights and hindering their ability to worship God.

Today, we who live in the United States and other prosperous nations are the moneychangers. Whether we know it or not, we are taking advantage of others in this world, hindering their ability to worship God because we hinder their ability to live. It calls into question who we actually worship: God or money?

We need to look into our cups when we drink and ask, “Are the few pennies I am saving by purchasing conventional coffee a faithful choice? Who is it helping? Who is it hurting?” And most importantly, “Who am I really worshipping?” Asking questions like these about coffee “filter” into other areas in our lives, raising awareness, and making us wiser and more faithful consumers.

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Fair Trade Chocolate

Where do the cocoa beans come from?

The cocoa that goes into Divine Chocolate is produced in Ghana by a cooperative called Kuapa Kokoo. Kuapa Kokoo is a Ghanaian cocoa-farming cooperative with approximately 45,000 members. Kuapa Kokoo is a part-owner of Divine Chocolate, which produces chocolate from their cocoa beans. Kuapa Kokoo farmers are the first cocoa farmers in the world to be part owners of a chocolate company.

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We would like to sell chocolate as a fundraiser for our youth group. How do we go about doing that?

Fair Trade chocolate fundraisers are the best kind of chocolate fundraisers! Not only do you have the opportunity to raise funds for your group, but you can support small-scale cocoa farmers in the process. Just order Divine Chocolate at wholesale prices from the LWR Chocolate Project. Most groups then sell the small bars for $2 and the large bars for $4-5. For simplicity, some groups choose to only sell the small bars.

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Why did LWR become a part owner of Divine Chocolate — a for-profit company?

The 45,000 farmers of Kuapa Kokoo asked us to buy into the company, and we were proud to join them as co-owners.

Every time LWR funds a project with one of our partner organizations, we make an investment. This situation is no different. By joining in partnership with the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, we are equipping and empowering them to take a more active role in the cocoa industry by helping them establish Divine Chocolate and build the market for their cocoa products in the United States.

As part-owners, the members of Kuapa Kokoo are involved in the business decisions from “bean to bar,” and benefit not only when they sell their beans at a Fair Trade price, but again when they receive a share of the profits from the sale of their cocoa products.

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I heard that there is a big problem with child labor in cocoa. How do I know Divine Chocolate isn’t engaging in this practice?

One of Fair Trade’s strongest aspects is that products that are certified as Fair Trade have been independently verified by a third-party auditor. Divine Chocolate buys their cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo, a 45,000 member cocoa cooperative (who also owns 45% of Divine Chocolate). They are certified by FLO (the Fairtrade Labelling Organization), and undergo an annual audit every year to make sure they are in compliance with all of the Fair Trade standards.

The Fair Trade standard around child labor is that children under 12 cannot engage in the most dangerous aspects of the profession (in this case, handling pesticides or using a machete), and children cannot work on the farm at the expense of going to school. This allows children to help out their parents without compromising their safety or education.

Auditors do not (and cannot) check each farm on every audit. They determine compliance by checking a random sample of farms, as well as looking at the cooperative’s own policies and enforcement of the Fair Trade standards. If either is found to be unacceptable, they are suspended until the problems are corrected. Suspensions can and do happen, and most cooperatives are able to correct these problems with education to their members and by strengthening their internal controls.

Currently, Fair Trade Certification is the closest that chocolate manufacturers (and consumers) can come to tracing their cocoa back to the farm level. Conventional traders might be able to tell you which country their cocoa came from, but they have no way of knowing what conditions for those farmers are like or how much they actually got paid.

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Ordering Fair Trade Products

How do I order Fair Trade products?


The easiest way to order is through the links above!

You may also order by phone using a credit card.

For coffee: Call Equal Exchange at 774.776.7340. Mention the LWR Coffee Project when you place your order.

For Divine Chocolate: Call SERRV at 888.294.9660.

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Can my church be charged?

If you are ordering coffee, you can set up an account with Equal Exchange. They will send an invoice with your order that can be paid when you receive your products. Call 774.776.7340 to speak directly with a customer service representative.

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Is there a minimum order?

There is no minimum order for coffee; however, all orders must be done by the case. If you order four cases or more, you receive free shipping on your order.

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Lutheran Malaria Initiative FAQs

The Lutheran Malaria Initiative

What is the Lutheran Malaria Initiative?

The Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) mobilizes U.S. Lutherans in the global fight to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. LMI is made possible through support from the United Nations Foundation.

Building on the success and strength of Lutheran networks already in place, the mission in Africa is straightforward: to teach people to recognize the symptoms of malaria, promote prevention, and provide treatment (through insecticide treated bed nets) and prevention resources.

Our goal is to reach as many U.S. Lutherans as we can to increase awareness of this disease and raise $45 million to help eliminate malaria deaths. Empowering local communities in Africa to combat malaria effectively will pay dividends for the health of future generations.

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In what countries is the Lutheran Malaria Initiative focusing its work?

The Lutheran Malaria Initiative is working directly with local communities, partner churches and organizations in the sub-Saharan African where malaria is widespread.

Our initial focus is in Uganda, Tanzania, Mali and Kenya. We are exploring opportunities to serve communities in Guinea, Niger, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Madagascar.

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How do you treat and prevent malaria?

Malaria is preventable and treatable.

Malaria-carrying mosquitoes generally bite at night while people are sleeping. Sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets can reduce malaria transmissions by as much as 90 percent.

With prompt diagnosis and treatment after the first symptoms appear malaria can be successfully treated through a number of different medications. Early treatment can shorten the duration of the infection and save lives. The key to preventing and treating malaria is education and access to prevention tools, treatment facilities and medical supplies.

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How can I get involved with the Lutheran Malaria Initiative?

  • Pray: Pray for those who suffer from malaria, and for those who are working to prevent, treat and contain the disease.
  • Learn: Learn more about malaria and inform your family, friends, congregation and community.
  • Get Involved: Inspire your congregation, school or ministry to participate. Consider serving on a Lutheran Malaria Initiative committee or organizing a fundraiser.
  • Give: Consider making a commitment to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. Your generous gift will enable us to respond to this great need and increase our ability serve even more people.

You can make a substantial difference for someone who has to live with the threat of malaria every day. 100 percent of your contribution to LMI goes to malaria programming.

For additional information send an email to

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Why Lutherans and Why Now?

Christ’s call for the unconditional mercy forms our Lutheran response to helping those in need by creating unique and effective partnerships that leverage local resources and empower individuals to prevent and treat malaria. Fed by Christ’s own body and blood at his table, we are called into this common service as bread for all who hunger and care for all who suffer. Compelled by the saving promise of the One who calls, our intention to help those afflicted by malaria could easily become a burden if we tried to impose well-meaning, but inappropriate practices upon those with whom we partner. It is thus with vision borne from experience and partnership in congregation or cooperative-based activities that we work against malaria, through pastors and partners, medicines and micro loans, bed nets and bedtime stories, to reach those most in need. Our deep relationships, proximity to the proclamation of the Gospel and Sacraments as well as mutual trust with, and access to, pastors and community leaders help to ensure that effective malaria education, prevention and treatments are in place in the communities we serve.

  • Lutherans are well positioned to lead a faith-based effort against malaria because:
  • We have a worldwide network of congregations, partner churches and other service providers to implement malaria programming.
  • We have a worldwide network of missionaries who, through Word and Sacrament ministry in homes and communities, can implement malaria programming.
  • We have the ability to connect with communities and individuals in Africa that other development organizations might not.
  • We have a proven history of successful programs working with our partner churches, communities and cooperatives where malaria work can be incorporated seamlessly.
  • With global cooperation on malaria stronger than ever, now is our time to seize this opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in Africa. Through the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, we have the opportunity for U.S. Lutherans to reach out to global partner churches, communities and cooperatives.

Lutherans have a longstanding and powerful history of helping people in need around the world. Empowering local communities to combat malaria effectively will pay dividends for the health and livelihoods of future generations.

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What is Lutheran Nothing But Nets and where does my $10 contribution go?

The Lutheran Malaria Initiative is partnering with the United Nation Foundation’s Nothing But Nets™ program, a global grassroots campaign established by the United Nations Foundation to raise awareness and funds to end malaria through the purchase and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets. Just $10 covers the cost of a long-lasting, effective and safe insecticide-treated bed net, shipment to someone who needs it in Africa, and education about the proper way to use it.

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Is the Lutheran Malaria Initiative the same as the ELCA Malaria campaign?

No. While LWR, the LCMS and the ELCA are all working on campaigns that aim to raise awareness and funds for malaria programs, the ELCA malaria campaign is a separate initiative with separate funding priorities.

LWR and the LCMS represent the Lutheran Malaria Initiative partnership and are working together to mobilize U.S. Lutherans to raise $45 million for malaria awareness, prevention and treatment programs in Africa.

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