US volunteers pack two million meals for hungry children around world
US volunteers pack 2 million meals for hungry children in El Salvador, Haiti and the Philippines
They came from all walks of US life - Girl Scouts troops, National Guard units, financial planning offices - to spend three days packing food for thousands of hungry children they will never meet.
The 2 Million Meals effort, the brainchild of a Detroit-area pastor, concluded on Sunday.
The result was that 8,810 volunteers put together 2.02 million meals to be shipped to El Salvador, Haiti and the Philippines. The mixtures of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and 21 vitamins and minerals will provide one meal a day for a year to 5,560 children.
"The truth is, this has been an amazing experience because of the impact it is going to cause in the lives of every child and every person who is going to eat these meals," Brad Powell, who heads NorthRidge Church, said shortly after the 2 millionth meal was packed on Sunday afternoon.
"But I think you can see from the energy in this room and all that's going on it's going to change more than just the lives of those who will eat this food."
Powell led an effort three years ago in which 5,000 volunteers packed 1 million meals over the same time period at an area middle school. Convinced more could and should be done, Powell dreamed of doubling that effort in the town of 55,000.
That vision became a reality when the magic completed number was displayed on an oversized video display.
Volunteers, who worked 11 sets of two-hour shifts from Friday to Sunday, cheered and danced as Gary Glitter's sports-arena anthem Rock & Roll, Part 2 filled the Suburban Collection Showplace, a convention centre which donated 6,000 square metres of space for the effort.
Also helping was Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota non-profit body that sends volunteer-packed meals across the globe.
NorthRidge members paid for the meals themselves, raising US$440,000 mostly through Christmas offerings at the church, which is one of the largest in the United States.
The nondenominational Christian church, which has its main church in Plymouth Township as well as two satellite locations in Michigan, draws an average of 9,600 worshippers each weekend.
Gabe Solak, 12, said he was drawn by the chance to do something for someone else.
"I heard about all these kids who were starving and are hungry, and I wanted to help them," he said.
Sergeant Stacy Price, 43, who worked alongside a handful of his fellow soldiers from a nearby army National Guard unit, saw it as both a chance to give back and a team-building exercise.
Price, though, said it was simply an enjoyable experience.
"I got to meet some amazing people here. Hopefully, I've met some more friends," said Price, who posed for more than a few pictures with other volunteers. "The experience was great. The people were very upbeat."