From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Animals march to church
20 May 1996 14:58:55
Feb. 7, 1996
Office of Communication
United Church of Christ
(216) 736-2200 (Cleveland)
In N.Y., William C. Winslow
Called from cyberspace, animals march to church
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Call it the cyberspace march of the
teddy bears. Animals from all over the country are pouring into
New Covenant United Church of Christ in Williamsport, Pa.
Hundreds of animals -- lions, rabbits, ducks, chickens, a
seagull, two Barney dinosaurs, but especially teddy bears. It's
sort of an updated version of Noah's ark. But these animals are
not escaping the Biblical flood; they are replacing stuffed
animals lost by Williamsport children to the great Northeast
flood. And they were summoned by the Internet.
This teddy bear brigade of relief is the brainchild of
church member Barbara Spittler, who saw a need that government
and private agencies were not fulfilling.
"Children are always the most vulnerable," says Spittler.
"As parents face the arduous task of cleaning up water-logged
and mud-caked homes, they can easily forget how important a toy
is to a child."
Many of the stuffed animals so dear to the hearts of young
children had to be thrown out -- even though, physically, they
were intact. It's a matter of health, with the danger of
disease present from dirty water.
Barbara Spittler knew exactly where to turn for help: her
computer. An avid quilter, she keeps in touch with some 400
other quilters via the Internet. The cyberspace appeal went out
and the toys started coming in.
The list existed because of a previous experience.
After the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing last May,
Spittler felt compelled to do something for the victims and
their families. On the Internet, she invited every quilter she
knew to contribute a panel embroidered with a victim?s name,
which she made into a 10x14 ft. quilt. The quilt's final
destination is the Smithsonian. Several months ago, the quilt
was exhibited in Mayflower Congregational Church, a United
Church of Christ congregation in Oklahoma City. From, there it
was sent to the governor's office in Oklahoma, where it
currently resides, pending the Smithsonian's decision on which
of its museums to display the quilt in. No wonder when the call
went out for the teddy bear brigade, the response was so
Interest in the children's crusade became so intense that
Spittler now has her own World Wide Web page, "Have a Heart."
The Internet address is
The bears and their friends are now trooping off to the
homes of happy kids, whose parents came to the church after a
local paper announced the distribution. Other animals will go
to local relief agencies. How does Barbara Spittler feel about
her new found use of the Internet?
"This seems to be what I was meant to be doing," she
responds modestly. Pretty good for a lady who, less than a year
ago, was scared stiff of computers.
The 1.5-million-member United Church of Christ, with
national offices in Cleveland, is comprised of more than 6,100
congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico. It was
formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational Christian
Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
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