TIE binds local goodwill, global need
By Lou Fancher
Budd MacKenzie gained and shed nearly 70,000 pounds in one day.
Eclipsing even his own expectations for a Trust in Education packing party that will send the 35 tons of supplies to refugee camps and villages in Afghanistan, the Lafayette-based nonprofit's founder said, "There are over 100 people here. It's a full house. I don't know why I worry."
Tables in the large hall at St Stephen's Episcopal Church in Orinda were stacked with winter clothing, blankets, toys, art and school supplies, dishes and other goods, and a multigenerational task force put items into bins and boxes.
Mackenzie laid the groundwork for TIE in 2003. Intending to demonstrate American goodwill by raising $25,000 to help build a school in the village of Lalander, Afghanistan, he and friends in the local community raised $60,000 for the nonprofit Central Asia Institute.
In the last 10 years, TIE has expanded its mission in Afghan villages to educate more children, provide microcredit financing and solar oven projects, support improved health care and living conditions for the Afghan people, and more.
When the Denton Program was recently reinstituted -- the program is jointly administered by several federal departments and allows donated goods to be transported overseas on U.S. military cargo planes on a space-available basis -- MacKenzie jumped on the opportunity.
"We don't know why Denton closed, or why it reopened," he said. "Maybe it was the pushback. We and a lot of other people had contacted our (Congressional) representatives."
In addition to the much-needed winter supplies, MacKenzie said the 24-foot U-Haul truck would transport to Travis Air Force Base 10,000 pounds of dog and cat food donated by Purina, 20 pallets of rice equal to 286,000 meals from Stop Hunger Now, and six computers.
Notices to homeowners associations and school groups like Acalanes High School's SAGE (Students for the Advancement of Global Education) had generated the event's heavy under-18 participation.
Anyone thinking young people are apathetic or uninvolved in philanthropy would need only five seconds at a TIE packing party to experience a revelation.
"We spread the word at our school," said SAGE co-president Samantha Taketa, 15. "We have a lot of people who are excited: 35 members, one of the biggest clubs of the school."
Samantha, along with her twin sister, Sarah, helms the club and said living in a privileged community means "there's always something you can do to help make the world better."
Sweeping her arm in a gesture that included the whirlwind of activity surrounding her, she said, "See this? It shows me how much people care."
Cameron James, an 18-year-old senior at St. Mary's College High School in Richmond, is a veteran TIE packer.
"The first time my dad wanted me to come ... we were doing rice packing. When I found out how much I was helping people, it just felt good."
Since then, James has uncorked his full volunteer potential; participating in Richmond programs while continuing to believe that helping communities outside his own is worthwhile.
"It makes us less selfish, to know the problems in the world," he said. "There are people everywhere going through hard things."
Perhaps one of the most hopeful indications that TIE and operations like it have a future was a "recruit" accompanying James.
"No, he didn't have to promise me breakfast," said Malik Stinson, 17, about joining his schoolmate for heavy lifting at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. "The cause is good, but just to do community service and help people is the right thing to do. It's easy to give."
Stinson said that instead of thinking about himself, he found himself thinking about other people.
"If everyone did this, there wouldn't be complete peace, but there'd be more connections. There wouldn't be so many ethnic and race groups separated."