In early 1939, the American Unitarian Association sent Martha and Waitstill Sharp to Czechoslovakia to help refugees fleeing into Prague from Nazi-occupied areas. Martha personally brought a group of 35 people safely into Britain, and the following May, after formally establishing the Unitarian Service Committee, the Sharps were asked to be its first commissioners. Returning to Europe, they worked in Lisbon and southern France, helping to deliver milk and food to areas cut off from relief supplies.
Programs conducted by the Unitarian Service Committee ministered to the needs of those displaced by World War II by providing clothing and other necessities in countries such as Germany, Hungary, and Holland. Additionally, the USC forged an “adoption” plan, wherein sponsors in the United States sent monthly packages of food and clothing to needy families and individuals in Europe. In responding to the needs of those displaced by the War, the USC established centers throughout Europe for the distribution of both food and clothing.