Volunteers assemble mealsHundreds of volunteers filled the old Walt Sanders building on Business Loop East Saturday to package 100,000 meals for hungry children as the final part of a Kiwanis campaign.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Hundreds of volunteers filled the old Walt Sanders building on Business Loop East Saturday to package 100,000 meals for hungry children as the final part of a Kiwanis campaign.
Kiwanis joined forces with Kids Against Hunger, a nonprofit organization based in New Hope, Minn., and its founder, President and CEO Richard Proudfit.
Kiwanis raised $23,000 for the project, but it was the support of more than 400 community members of all ages coming together on Saturday that finished it.
The turnout was so strong that volunteers had to slow down packaging during the early shifts, said Janna Bergstedt, Kiwanis member and event co-coordinator.
“It was going so fast that we had to slow down. We should have bought a lot more (meals),” Bergstedt said.
Proudfit was on hand to tell his story and motivate the volunteers.
“You’re going to be the hero today,” he told the volunteers. “You’re the star and the hero because you are going to save lives today.”
Proudfit’s life of philanthropy started when he was doing relief work as an engineer in Honduras after Hurricane Fifi in 1974.
There he witnessed children dying in their mothers’ arms and other horrors that follow in the wake of a natural disaster.
“I couldn’t handle it,” he said. “God broke my heart.”
After that he used his resources to work with General Mills and Cargill to design the most nutritious meal possible for the lowest cost.
Each meal consists of rice, soy and dehydrated vegetables fortified with vitamins and minerals. In total it costs 23 cents for the materials — the packaging, done by volunteers, is the challenge.
The meals are then given directly to those in need, whether that’s in inner city Chicago, or the other side of the world in Afghanistan. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard provide the transportation to Third World countries.
On Saturday volunteers ranged from those barely able to reach into the bins of rice and soy to the elderly.
“We have a bunch of stuff and they don’t,” said 9-year-old Avey Burns. “We should stand up for them and help them.”
Across the sorting table from Burns was her friend, 8-year-old Lexy Awalt.
“There’s a lot of starving kids in Haiti and other countries,” Awalt said.
On the other side of the former automobile showroom was Joyce Bentz, a volunteer who worked all three shifts and helped her husband, Kiwanis member and event co-cordinator, Don Bentz, with the set up of the facility the day before.
“When you hear what he has to say there is no way you can say ‘I don’t want to be a part of this,’” Joyce Bentz said of Proudfit. “He is a very motivated man.”
Proudift was so impressed with the turnout and dedication of the volunteers that he said he wants to expand the program in North Dakota, with Jamestown as the central location.
States have a central or division location with 10 to 15 satellite locations.
“When you see those kids a blessing goes out and it comes back,” he said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org