A group of volunteers spent Sunday afternoon turning mounds of donated clothes and goods into about 30 neatly packed boxes that will be shipped on Monday to the Dominican Republic.
The group eventually will follow the packages — flying to the impoverished Caribbean nation on April 1 to help build houses in the mountainside village of Los Cocos.
The effort is part of a mission organized by members of the congregation of St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.
What has become an annual event began in 2007 with five people helping to build one house. This year, the mission will include 80 people constructing 11 houses.
St. Peter's member Anne Dice had served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Los Cocos and first approached the church six years ago about helping villagers who typically live in windowless homes with dirt floors and bark roofs.
In the time since the mission started, new church members, friends, family members, local businesses and other churches have joined in the effort. The group that will travel to the Dominican Republic for a week in April will include volunteers from St. Andrew's United Methodist Church in Haddonfield and the Atlantic Christian School in Egg Harbor Township, as well as about 25 representatives from St. Peter's.
Local business leaders, such as Sandy Aromando, owner of Euro Line Designe in Somers Point, helped lead the effort to solicit donations for the mission. St. Peter's Pastor Terry Lothian will travel with the group to provide ministry.