What started off 10 years ago in Brazil as part of a mission has righted itself into a full-scale, overseas volunteer shipping operation for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist.

What started off 10 years ago in Brazil as part of a mission has righted itself into a full-scale, overseas volunteer shipping operation for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist.
Sister Andrea Kantner said the Independence-based religious order has remain true to their charism by donating recycled bicycles, hospital beds, computers, clothing and other items of necessity to people in need all over the globe.
“It’s part of our mission,” Kantner said. “This whole process is an outgrowth of our mission in Brazil we had for 17 years. It started off basically as whatever we could do to help out.”
In recent weeks, the order has been receiving a lot of attention for a recycled bicycle program that provides used bicycles to children, teachers and sometimes priests in need.
“Ten years ago, we had been sending shipments of (bikes) overseas to different countries,” Kantner said. “We were sending them to teachers who had to go to school to teach, children who would have to leave their villages and walk with no shoes or sometimes to priests to get to their missions because they had no cars.
“In the early shipments we were sending seven or eight bikes in the shipments. Two years ago, when the organization (Bikes and Trikes for Tykes) we partnered with disbanded, that’s how we ended up with a lot of bicycles. We were sending out unfixed bikes and we really hated to do that.”
Kantner said less than two weeks ago, Sisters of St. Francis had on hand about 150 used bikes destined for the needy, but were overwhelmed with the number in need of repair. Through media attention, a host of volunteers from Eastern Jackson, Clay and Cass Counties made their way to the order at 2100 North Noland Road to help the cause.
Today,  a shipment of repaired bicycles is bound for third world locations in India, Africa, Honduras and Nicaragua and only a dozen or so bicycles remain on the order’s property in need of repair.
“We are so much more than bikes,” Kantner said. “We have computers that need to be fixed. Sometimes we get hospital beds and wheelchairs that need attention. We are always in search of volunteers to help out.”
Karen Justin, a full-time worker at the Sisters of St. Francis’ warehouse, said being employed by the order gives her a chance to have a sense of purpose in life. She said her job is two-fold: helping children in need and preserving the earth.
“I think of all the children in the orphanages and the schools overseas and I like to think there is a bunch of children benefiting from (the Sisters of St. Francis’ work),” Justin said. “I get a real sense of purpose in recycling all of this stuff and keeping it out of the landfills.”
Justin said she has appreciated all of the volunteers she has run across at the order since November when she became a full-time employee. Still, Justin said, there is more work to be done and more volunteers needed to do it.
“It would be really nice to get volunteers to commit to a block of time, where they come in once or twice a week and help out,” Justin said. “That would be really nice.”
Citizens interested in volunteering at Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist should called Sister Andrea Kantner at 816-252-1673 or visit the order’s Web site at www.osfholyeucharist.