SALT LAKE CITY- School supplies – from scissors and crayons to kid-size chalkboards – are reaching the hands of children in need thanks to a unique partnership between Delta Airlines and the humanitarian service arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Once destined for the landfill, old seat covers from Delta’s planes are being transformed by Church volunteers into bags stuffed with basic school supplies for needy children around the world.

Mel Carter, an analyst at Delta Airlines headquarters in Atlanta, hated to see thousands of yards of useful fabric go to waste. “My thought was, why couldn’t we make use of the seat covers for something else, rather than just throwing them away,” Carter said.

He sent a sample of the fabric to the Church’s Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City. Dean Walker, unit manager at the Center, said, “When we saw the thick, sturdy fabric, the thought came, maybe we could use them for a bag for our international school kits.”

A few samples of the bags were produced and sent to Delta, where the idea quickly caught on. William Settle with Delta’s public affairs office commented: “It was the neatest thing to be so creative in using cloth off a seat cover. It was amazing.”

Soon Delta began sending large shipments of seat covers to the Humanitarian Center. At the Center, volunteers cut the seat covers to a pattern, then sew and stuff the finished bags with school supplies. The Church boxes up the filled bags and ships them to children in need around the world.

Humanitarian Center volunteer Mary Rhodes explained: “It’s hard to learn wit hout paper or pencils or even blackboards to work math problems. The school kits give them things they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Even the leather from first-class seats is used to make footballs and other toys. The school kits and toys are shipped worldwide as needed. Now, Delta employees are arranging donations of blankets and other fabric for use by the Humanitarian Center.

“I think a lot of people ask themselves, you know, there’s so much suffering in the world, what can I do?” said Walker. “This is an example, a fine example, of how one individual can make a big difference.”

In addition to distributing educational supplies, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors disaster relief and development projects around the world, including programs to strengthen the productivity and self-reliance of individuals and families and to increase the capacity of communities and institutions to serve others. Between 1985 and 2000, the Church rendered humanitarian assistance in 147 countries, including Kosovo, Bosnia, North Korea, Honduras, Mozambique, East Timor and Belize. Hundreds of full-time volunteers with skills and experience in education, agriculture, social work, business and medicine serve throughout the world.

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