“Tonight we’re going to save 54,000 lives,” Steve Deal told the more than 150 people crammed elbow-to-elbow in the cafeteria of Mount Airy High School last night. “This is life-saving. Literally.”
Deal, a representative of Stop Hunger Now, was in town delivering a truckload of bulk food including rice, soy, vegetables, flavorings and a vitamin packet.
He came to town to deliver the food after members of Mount Airy’s First Baptist and First Presbyterian churches and the Mount Airy Rotary Club raised $13,500 for the outreach project, enough to package 54,000 meals.
The meals will be delivered overseas to one of 36 developing countries, where they will be distributed in schools to starving children, Deal said.
This is the second time First Baptist Church has undertaken the project. Last July, the members packaged 33,000 meals, but wanted it to be even bigger and more inclusive this year, according to Laney Johnson, organizer of the food drive.
“This year, when we started planning the event, some people from Rotary had expressed interest because a lot of the clubs across the state have participated,” Johnson said. “This year, they chipped in $2,000 and some volunteers, then the First Presbyterian Church heard about it and they wanted to participate, so they contributed $500 and some volunteers.”
For Johnson, the impetus for the food drive was simple: Reaching out to those in need.
“We look at it like it’s a mission trip,” she said. “Since the economy has gotten so bad and many people can’t afford to travel to other countries, we thought this would be a tangible way to reach out to help others.”
And it seems to be catching on.
“Some of our members before last year had participated in Stop Hunger Now, and they talked about how great it is and how much can be accomplished in such a short amount of time,” Johnson said. “We started it as a church event, but hope this can become an ongoing annual event and even involve more groups in the community. This has such a huge impact with just a little bit of effort.”
Addressing the crowd prior to the flurry of packaging activity, Deal told the group he appreciates their time and service.
“You people are repeat offenders,” he said. “Because right now, you’re offending hunger.”
For First Baptist Church member Ben Cooke, it’s about giving to others.
“I didn’t get the chance to help with it last year because I was out of town,” he said, sweaty from helping unload the truck prior to the packaging of the meals. “But when I got back I heard how much fun it was and how much it helps other people around the world. I just enjoy it because I like being a part of helping others.”
And the pool of volunteers is a cross-section of the community, according to Johnson.
“We have people from 5 years old to those in their upper 90s here,” she said. “And for our church, we don’t have any other event that brings so many ages together.”
Jessie Hinson, 11, is in her second year of helping with the program.
“I’m here because we raised money in our church and I just like helping people,” she said with a smile. “And every time we pack 1,000 meals, we ring a gong, so that’s cool.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.