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Parishioners help prepare meals for third-world countries
new vlc t p celebration
Volunteers celebrate after another 1,000 meal goal is met at the Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event held at the Great Bend Expo 1 building Friday evening. A total of 15,120 meals for humanitarian relief were assembled.

 Imagine packing 15,120 meals for hungry children in just two hours. Now, imagine you had the help of more than 60 friends. That’s just what happened at the Great Bend Expo 1 Friday night, when members of four churches gathered to take part in meal packaging event with the Kansas City non-profit Stop Hunger Now. 

Susan Bauer, a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Great Bend, learned about the organization in February, and its mission resonated with her.

“The organization helps in crisis situations, but it also provides meals to little kids in third-world countries who are attending mission schools,” she said. “For some of these kids, it may be the only food they get that day.” 

Exceeding expectations

In order to bring an event to Great Bend, enough money to package 10,000 meals and and their transport needed to be raised. Bauer made contact with three other churches, including First United Methodist and King United Methodist in Great Bend, and Hoisington United Methodist. Terry Turner, Jan Sherman, and Grace Bell, all of Great Bend, and Pat Oswald of Hoisington helped Bauer organize the event. In April, they began raising funds, with a goal of $3,600. That was quickly surpassed, and they decided to try for enough to send 15,000 meals. Churches had hamburger feeds, sold walking tacos at June Jaunt, approached Pizza Hut to sponsor a donation night in which the restaurant shared a percentage of the profit from pizza sales to go towards the group’s efforts. Bauer made a presentation to the Great Bend Noon Lions Club. 

Even the Vacation Bible School children from FUMC, Trinity UMC, King UMC and First Congregational UCC churches donated their offering to the Stop Hunger Now effort, Bauer said. In the end, they raised $5,722. Enough to pay for the 15,000 meals, with enough to spare to donate to an organization drilling wells for drinking water in Haiti. 

Getting it done

Fast forward to Friday night. Organizers from each church plus a handful of volunteers met the truck driver and event facilitators for Stop. Hunger. Now. at the Expo 1 building. They began unloading boxes of meal ingredients, tables, chairs, scales, bags, and bag sealers, as well as empty shipping boxes from the truck and setting up assembly lines where soon eager volunteers would build the meals. 

As people of all ages arrived, they were greeted, offered a bite to eat and water to drink, courtesy of individual donors at Trinity and First UMC, and were given hair nets and gloves. SHN Director Baylee DeLaurier and Assistant Director Joe Falter set up a gong near the public address unit, and soon music and conversation filled the air. As 6 p.m. arrived, DeLaurier sounded the gong, and she and Falter greeted the volunteers and shared some facts about hunger, and then FUMC Pastor Lennie Maxwell opened the activity with prayer. Falter explained the hows and whys of meal packaging. Each package included enough food for six meals, consisting of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, and a vitamin enhanced seasoning packet. Each volunteer had only one job--add a scoop to the mix to a bag, place the bag in a container, and repeat. Then, volunteer runners would take the completed container to the next line where the bags were weighed, and rice was either removed or added to bring the total weight into a uniform range of grams. Then, the packages were heat sealed by yet another volunteer, and still others would then take the sealed bags to a table where they would be packed into boxes, and finally boxes stacked on a shipping pallet with a total of 36 boxes, plastic wrapped for shipping, and eventually lifted back onto the truck for transport back to the Kansas City warehouse. From there, the food would be shipped as humanitarian aid to one of 71 countries worldwide. 

Young and old, side by side

While in the volunteer commitment phase of the project, organizers encouraged people by assuring them that the event was something that people of all ages and abilities could participate in. Friday night, the ages ranged from preschoolers to those in their retirement years, and true to form, each person was given a task they could complete.

“Many older people commented to me that they really appreciated the fact they could sit, and that made the difference in deciding to come,” Bauer said. “They could also rest when they needed to, because there were plenty of people to spot them.” 

Members of a Boy Scout troop came with their leader, toddlers and little kids came with mom and dad or grandma and grandpa, and there was plenty of participation from men and women. Every time 1,000 meals had been completed, DeLaurier or Falter would sound the gong, and a brief celebratory clapping would pause the line for a moment. In less than two hours, a total of 15,120 meals, enough to fill every box with 36 meals had been assembled. With a few minutes left on the clock, volunteers helped break down the assembly lines, repack the ingredients, and prepare the truck for its trip back to Kansas City. 

Bauer later learned the truck had been on its way to Kansas City from Colorado, so the group was able to put more towards the well project because they didn’t have to pay the full amount for the van to transport. 

DeLaurier said the organization will share the final destination of the meals within the next couple of months. Wherever they end up, they will arrive with the goodwill of those who came together to share a few hours of their time on a Friday night in Central Kansas. 

— Stop Hunger Now gets food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable people, and works to end global hunger in this lifetime. Established in 1998, SNH provided over 180 million meals in 65 countries. Based in Raleigh, N.C., it operates throughout the U.S. and through affiliates in developing countries. In addition to meals, Stop Hunger Now is organizing the shipment of other critical supplies such as first aid kits, medical gloves, face masks, hazmat kits, personal protection equipment.