Treasurer: Herbert E. Johnson, Kalamazoo City Savings Bank
To ensure the proper collection, counting and use of the donated funds, Herbert E. Johnson, president of the Kalamazoo City Savings Bank, volunteered his time to preserve the integrity of the campaign. The Relief Committee rented space in the Cowlbeck Building at 106 West Main Street for the headquarters. There people could leave all donations and get information either in person or over the phone. Following the national trend to buy locally, the committee stated that they would use the financial contributions to purchase food items from stores in Kalamazoo.
Food and Clothing: Edward C. Parsons, chairman; Augustus B. Scheid, Samuel Folz, Mrs. Carrie M. Upjohn, Mrs. Hattie Desenberg, Mrs. Florence Mills, Mrs. Edith Hodge
Food: Food being the most pressing need of the Belgian people, the Commercial Club created the slogan “Buy A Sack of Flour for Some Starving Belgian,” to encourage public response. The slogan did cause some confusion. People dutifully went to the stores and bought bags of flour and took them to the Cowlbeck Building. However, this was not what the committee wanted. Special arrangements existed with the Kalamazoo milling companies for the committee to purchase 50 lb. of flour at the cost of only $1.25 in cloth bags suitable for shipping. While the milling companies did provide the cloth bags to pour the individual flour donations into, the word went out for people to donate the money for a 50 lb. bag and that the committee would then purchase the flour. Along with the flour, the committee also sought donations of other non-perishable foods: beans, dried peas, bacon and cured meats. They hoped this would encourage the county’s farmers to donate from their crops and get the rural population to participate.
Clothing: On this the point the committee was very clear. This was not a collection of peoples’ old clothes. The committee allowed for the donation of sweaters in good condition, but asked people to view the display in the window at Gilmore Brothers Department Store for the appropriate type of clothes that the Belgian people wore. People could purchase the fabric and obtain the patterns to make clothes or donate to the cost of having clothes made.
Fund Solicitation: Dr. Edward J. Bernstein, chairman; Mrs. Caroline Bartlett Crane, Charles W. Carpenter
Money: The committee placed collection boxes in stores throughout the city to make it easier for all to donate. So that workers did not have to go out of their way to donate, the committee placed boxes in the factories. Originally the committee thought people with a good income would just naturally make sizable contributions. However when that did not happen, the committee sent out 200 letters to prominent individuals in the city. This brought in many $100 contributions. The people who sent such contributions usually did so anonymously with a note signed simply “from a friend.”
On 22 November, churches held a special collection for the Belgian Relief Fund. The day’s services added $150 toward the purchase of food. When the first pleas for help reached the United States, the Jewish community and the Reformed Churches in Kalamazoo quietly held independent collections. Within the Jewish community, the people raised $1000. The Reformed Churches raised $494. Both groups sent the money to the national relief agency in New York. During the Commercial Club’s drive the Reformed Churches did contribute an additional $306.
As the relief drive entered its final hours, the Gazette received a contribution from Mr. A. R. Burke of Niles with a note attached:
“I first thought I would give $5, but after considering the matter decided that $15 would do a great deal more good. I would have given more, but I have had considerable bad luck lately.”
Such a self-less act helped to promote giving on the last official day of the relief drive, and perhaps added encouragement for prominent citizens to give. Although the headquarters closed on the 25th, Mr. Herbert E. Johnson continued to receive contributions at the Kalamazoo City Savings Bank.
Entertainment: Edward B. Desenberg, chairman; T. Paul Hickey, Mrs. Mary Knight with help provided from Lewis C. Barnes and William Marshall
In order to build support for the campaign, James Grant arranged to bring movies to the Kalamazoo theaters that depicted the horrors the Belgian people endured. This was the best way to show people the desperate need for their donations. Lewis C. Barnes, manager of the Kalamazoo Amusement Company, offered 60% of the proceeds from special shows on 24 November to the Belgian Relief Fund. Each K.A.C. theater showed a different mix of films. The Elite, without regard for the cost, showed a Famous Players film, “The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch.” Famous Players was a production company that put plays on film with the famous talent that had played the parts on the New York stage. Due to a charity drive for the Anti-Tuberculosis Society on the 28th in which the Elite was a partner, its contribution was 50% of its proceeds to the Belgian fund. The Lyric showed a Hearst-Selig News Pictorial along with two war films. The Orpheum showed the Mutual Weekly, a serial that showed one episode a week, a photoplay, a trailer about a new film or the personal lives of actors, and two war pictures. While at the Colonial the public saw an un-named lighter comedy. With a charge of only ten cents, all in Kalamazoo could afford to make a contribution. Mr. Barnes stated that if his theaters played to a full house, he could still break even, but if he didn’t, he still was happy to contribute the day’s proceeds. The total contribution from the four theaters was $125.
Publicity: Robert A. Staebler, chairman; Peter A. Dalm, Elton R. Eaton, F. Ford Rowe
There was no description of this committee’s work, other than that they put up posters and notices around the city and county and kept the newspapers informed of all related activities like the following.
The Kalamazoo Relief Committee on the night of 21 November asked a local man, originally from Belgium, to comment on the importance of the work to aid his homeland. That night they moved their headquarters to the home of Celestin Van de Maele at 304 Ingleside Terrace. Mr. Van de Maele spoke about his four years experience in the Belgian army and spoke at length on the current conditions in Belgium. Unfortunately there was no description of his comments.