From our beginning, AFSC has responded to the material needs created by war, displacement, and disaster. We encouraged compassionate individuals and groups to collect garments and other goods that we could distribute to people in need. For decades, the basement of our Philadelphia office and similar spaces in 14 other cities were dedicated to bundling and shipping these goods “from the nameless to the nameless.”  Always, we sought ways to deliver aid in a manner that preserved the recipients’ sense of dignity and self-respect.

Beginning in the 1960s, questions were raised about whether providing material aid was the right mission for AFSC, or whether our efforts should be directed more toward altering the root causes of violence and suffering. As man-made and natural disasters continued, so did our response. But in the 21st century, we began winding down material aid to focus on cultivating peaceful, resilient communities around the world.

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  • Large group of people surround a table piled with clothing.
    During WW I, AFSC shipped 80,000 garments in 1917 alone, including some based on a pattern that could be worn by a man, woman, or child. Clothing collection was our only program that ran without interruption from 1917 through 1967.
  • Workers pile crates onto horse drawn wagons.
    In 1922, horse-drawn wagons took supplies from the collection station in AFSC’s central office in Philadelphia to the next stop on their way to people in need.
  • Group of women and children stand next to a car, holding pails.
    By 1931, President Herbert Hoover asked AFSC to offer both material aid and skills retraining to Appalachian coal mining families devastated by the depression.
  • People look at shoes and clothing in large piles in a room.
    As always, during the Spanish Civil War AFSC provided relief for people on both sides of the conflict. Shoe and clothing collections like this one occurred across the U.S.
  • Nine elderly women stand and sit around a table covered with fabric and sewing supplies.
    Sewing and knitting circles produced garments through both World Wars, often with participants spanning multiple generations from one family. A “wedding gown library” in England lent out dresses collected in the U.S.
  • Two young men hold up large containers of cooking oil for a U.S. Customs agent to inspect.
    After Hurricane Flora devastated Cuba in 1963, AFSC shipped 22,786 pounds of canned meat, corn meal, beans, soybean oil, antibiotics, and blood transfusion equipment to the Cuban Red Cross.
  • Women hold up bundles of wrapped goods they received.
    During hostilities between Egypt and Israel that lasted from 1967 to 1970, these women in Giza, Egypt, were extremely happy to receive bundles of clothing provided by AFSC.
  • Woman and children stand together outside a house.
    When HIV-AIDS began to ravage African communities in the 1980s, AFSC boosted the capacity of local organizations caring for orphans, families, and communities caring for children orphaned by AIDS.
  • Group of people stand around a seated man working on a calculator in a room filled with boxes.
    Collecting and packaging material goods offered thousands of people an opportunity to get actively involved in helping others in times of crisis.
  • Two elderly women hold up a large blanket.
    AFSC partner organization, Afghans for Afghans, sends mittens and other knitted items to children in Afghanistan. Grace and Clara’s work will keep several youngsters warm!
  • Two girls stand next to each other, holding an envelope that reads " Mittens and Milk, $156.63"
    The “Mittens and Milk” campaign in 1997 allowed American children to collect gloves and $2 donations for powdered milk to help North Korean children survive the harsh winter months.
  • Girl holds up package, including new sneakers.
    In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused the worst flooding seen in Honduras in the 20th century. This child received both a hygiene kit and a new pair of sneakers from AFSC.
  • Children and teacher stand facing each other, hands on hips.
    After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, AFSC supported Acehnese partners in Indonesia with medical equipment and school supplies. This led us to an ongoing engagement with local communities.