Mar 082011
care package

Image by I Don't Know, Maybe. via Flickr

Marta Edie has no trouble remembering the first package stamped with the letters “CARE” that arrived at her family’s home in Limburg an der Lahn, Germany, shortly after World War II.

Among the marvels it contained were canned bacon, margarine, flour, sugar, Maxwell House coffee and peanut butter. “We didn’t know what peanut butter was for,” Mrs. Edie, 85, now living in Kentucky, recalled. “We had never seen it, and it became something of a delicacy for us.”

The packages spawned a nonprofit group, the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, now known as CARE.

The organization later dispensed with the packages, instead focusing on large development projects and disaster relief operations, and the term “care package” entered the vernacular.

CARE is staking a claim to it again, this time with a 21st-century twist. On Wednesday, the charity is officially offering the packages via a Web site,

“I came to understand that this was a part of our history that we weren’t making optimum use of,” said Helene D. Gayle, chief executive of CARE. “They meant so much to the people who received them after the war, and we hope the new CARE package will have the same impact on the people we help today.”

The new version allows donors to pick a recipient whose needs are described and then fill a “virtual box” with projects that will be financed through their contributions. A donor could elect to cover the cost of, for example, emergency transportation for a woman in a rural area to a health clinic or hospital or to pay for training of a local health care worker in obstetrics.

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