Staff at Casa del Carmen, an archdiocesan Catholic Social Services site in North Philadelphia, distribute hygiene kits donated by global humanitarian aid organization Heart to Heart International (HHI), May 6. The items, sourced by HHI corporate partner Johnson and Johnson, are a “luxury” for many on fixed incomes, said Casa administrator Camille Crane. (Photo courtesy of Casa del Carmen /Camille Crane)

A global humanitarian organization has teamed up with archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) to provide area residents with much-needed personal items during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 6, Heart to Heart International (HHI) delivered some 1,200 hygiene kits to Casa del Carmen, one of CSS’s five family service centers.

Located in North Philadelphia, the site (a beneficiary of the annual Catholic Charities Appeal) provides an array of support services and accredited early childhood education for the area’s largely Latino residents.

According to administrator Camille Crane, within two hours of delivery staff distributed more than 100 of the donated packages, which included face masks, gloves, hand towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and bandages.

Many outreaches are adding hygienic items to their emergency food distribution as job losses mount and store shelves run low.

“Masks and gloves can be a cost-prohibitive luxury for those on fixed incomes,” said Crane.

With the pandemic snarling supply chains, however, relief agencies themselves have had difficulty securing such items.

HHI vice president Brian Sink admitted that his own team has experienced “extended fulfillment intervals from … suppliers,” even with the backing of corporate partner and consumer pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J), which sponsored the kits for Casa del Carmen.

“Fortunately, our logistics team and suppliers are creative when it comes to solving these challenges,” said Sink.

Such agility isn’t surprising for the Kansas-based organization, which has provided more than $2 billion of aid in more than 130 countries since 1992. Over the years, HHI has spearheaded historic airlifts to Russia, Vietnam and India, where it supplied $12 million in 1996 to support the work of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity.

The agency has also coordinated on-the-ground assistance in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the continuing Syrian refugee crisis.

According to its website, HHI has launched “international, domestic and local responses” to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the donation to Casa del Carmen exemplified all three. The items obtained by the multinational J&J were assembled into kits by volunteers from the Catholic Church of the Nativity and the surrounding Kansas City region.

The shipment arrived just as the Casa del Carmen team was “in the process of distributing food bags,” said Crane, who thanked Sink and HHI on behalf of those served at the site.

Crane said one elderly woman commended Archbishop Nelson Perez for inspiring HHI’s donation, crediting his livestreamed Sunday Masses with enabling “an international company to hear of Philadelphia.”

***

Courtney Flach contributed to this story.