BAINBRIDGE — About 100 people showed up Sunday to help pack 15,000 meals at Valley Presbyterian Church to send to individuals impacted by poverty, drought, flooding and other natural disasters.
Standing in lines, they filled plastic bags with dried rice, beans and dried vegetables as well as a vitamin packet. The bags were then weighed, sealed and packed in boxes. It is all part of the Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger mission.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Bainbridge resident and church member Lynn Fagerholm of the hall filled with people. “This brings our church and the Bainbridge and Auburn communities together for a good cause,” she said. “And we have to make sure the food gets to those who need it.”
Volunteer Lois Urban participated in the church’s meal-packing project in 2017 and noted, “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s helping a lot of people.” It is a learning experience to see what goes into disaster response, she noted.
Some of the foods from past packing events went to Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane, said volunteer Donna Lucas. She was at the church Sunday with her husband, Mike, and daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Josh Houk.
“It’s a very moving experience,” Mrs. Lucas said. “There are people in need, and we are going to help those people.”
During the set-up portion of the event, volunteers including Marilyn Rodenhauser helped label the plastic bags in which the foods would be stored with lot numbers and expiration dates. “It’s a great and fun event,” said Mrs. Rodenhauser as people chatted and listened to music while assembling the packets.
The church raises money to pay for the food and shipping costs when sending the emergency packets to Rise Against Hunger, according to the Rev. John Wahl, pastor of Valley Presbyterian Church. Packets cost about 34-cents each and the church contributes $5,000 to cover the cost of food and shipping the boxes to the Rise Against Hunger regional headquarters in Pittsburgh, he said. This is the second year for the event at the church.
Wearing plastic gloves and hair nets, the volunteers placed the items in the plastic bags which were weighed and placed in boxes, Rev. Wahl said, to be sent all around the world where disasters and famine have affected people.
Rev. Wahl noted that the event drew an inter-generational crowd with the youngest being just 2 years old and the oldest in their 90s.
Valley Presbyterian’s resale store raises some of the money for the event and there are donations, he said. The mission committee at the church oversees the project.
Elizabeth Bradford is the community engagement manager for Rise Against Hunger’s Pittsburgh office. She brought in the food and then drove the packed boxes back to Pittsburgh. She noted that the donations provide multiple families the ability to eat for a year.
Church member Jerry Moreno said, “It’s a great mission and project for our church.” He was there with his sister JoAnn Moore from the Methodist Church in Solon. She noted, “It is a way to help people who are hungry.”
Mrs. Lucas said they did the event two years ago and it was an amazing experience. “People from all over the community came to help package thousands of meals to be sent all over the world to areas impacted by hurricanes, floods and famines.
“To me it’s heartwarming. You know you are helping people, and when you think of the disasters that happen and people living in poverty you think how blessed we are,” Mrs. Lucas said.