A whole lot of clattering and chattering was coming out of The New Covenant Presbyterian Church a couple of Saturdays ago when over 70 volunteers representing six churches began scooping, weighing, packaging and boxing 10,000 dehydrated, high protein, and highly nutritious meals in less than two hours for a Stop Hunger Now event.
With six assembly lines, four for the food packaging and two for the boxing, the volunteers ranged from little ones to retirees. Some stood, some sat and some ran up and down the lines picking up the packaged meals that were boxed to be transported to crisis-burdened areas and supplied to school feeding programs around the world. Ninety percent of the meals will go to school feeding programs that will feed families in areas such as Uganda, Haiti, South Africa and other areas where there are great food shortages. Ten percent will be used for disaster relief.
Along with members of New Covenant, volunteers arrived from Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, Salem Presbyterian, Fairfield Presbyterian, Ampthill Presbyterian and Louisa Presbyterian. The cost to cover the meals, which included all the ingredients and equipment brought in to package them, was $2,500. Each church donated $250 and they received a $1,000 grant from Presbytery on the James. At a cost of 25 cents per meal, the package will feed one person six meals or a family of six one meal. This was the second year New Covenant Presbyterian Church hosted the event.
New Covenant Presbyterian Church, a small church located in the Irongate Subdivision, has around 75 members with an active Sunday attendance of around 55. There pastor, the Reverend Felecia Douglass, brought the idea to her congregation after she attended a conference and saw the project in action.
“Our pastor brought it to us as a suggestion,” Judy Lee said. “This is one of the missions that we feel like small churches can come together and make a big impact.”
Lee’s co-chair, Cherene McCall, said the event was so successful last year they went right back to work planning for next year. “We decided to do it immediately after we did it last year,” she said.
Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world. The organization is driven by a vision of a world without hunger and a mission to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable.
Communities that participate in the Stop Hunger Now’s meal program find the hands-on international mission project as a fun way to encourage team building and provide the opportunity to have an exponential and sustainable international impact without leaving their community.
“They bring everything, the weights, the food, the bags, everything, “Lee said. “Then it is loaded into huge railroad car containers for shipment. This is all new to us, we had no idea what was going on last year and now we are pros.” The containers are shipped with 250,000 meals.
Rev. Douglass said once the action starts things get a little crazy but it is fun for everyone. “It was so much fun last year and I felt like we did a really wonderful job, but it is difficult for a small church to do it alone,” she said. “There is something to do for older people who can sit and something for young people where they can run off their energy. It is also an opportunity to share a meal together.”
After the packaging, the volunteers were given an opportunity to sample a packaged meal while they enjoyed lunch.
Ken Wermuth, certified hunger event facilitator from the Stop Hunger Now Richmond warehouse, got involved with the organization after participating in an event through his church in September.
“I found it to be a really good organization and wanted to get more involved,” he said. After visiting the Richmond warehouse to see how he could help, he ended up making a commitment to be a facilitator every weekend for one year. “It is so cool to know I might have saved the life of who knows how many people today. Everyone here is to help the greater good.”
Stop the Hunger started as a domestic program in 1998 by Ray Buchanan, a Methodist minister in North Carolina. He found there was a greater need abroad because there were so many local agencies helping the poor with their immediate food and clothing needs and began the international effort in 2005. Since then more than 100,000 volunteers have packaged nearly 30 million meals to feed the worlds impoverished.
“A couple of months ago on World Hunger Day, we had a million meal event, in one day, with thousands of volunteers,” said Wermuth.
Rev. Douglass continues to challenge members of New Covenant. “My dream is to do something that is ecumenical to drawl different churches together of different faiths,” she said. “For my birthday I asked for 50 members to donate $50 so we could do another food packaging event.”
She didn’t get her wish, but was happy to know their event has already spun off to other churches.