EAST HELENA — Dozens of volunteers got to work in East Helena Friday, to help prepare food for people in need around the world.
The Helena Valley Faith Center is working with the national Christian nonprofit Feed My Starving Children this week to put on a meal-packing event at East Valley Middle School.
The volunteers measured out portions of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables and vitamin-enriched flavoring. They sealed the meals into plastic bags, packed them into boxes and loaded the boxes onto pallets.
Over three days, volunteers are set to put together more than 108,000 meals. Feed My Starving Children will distribute them to partner organizations in more than 70 countries, who will then deliver the food to needy children.
Pastor Jeff Richards said this was the first time his church has done an event like this. He said he was inspired by a Foursquare Disaster Relief meal-packing event in Seattle last year.
“I thought, ‘We can do this in our church and in our community,’” he said.
Richards said 88 people helped pack on Thursday, and about 120 took part on Friday. He said they included his church members, members of other partner churches and others from the community.
“Everybody loves this,” he said. “It’s exciting to know you’re making an impact somewhere in the world when there’s a disaster.”
The drive will wrap up on Saturday. Volunteers can take part in one of two sessions, each lasting two to three hours. The sessions will begin at 8:45 a.m. and at noon.
Sarah Nikkel, a senior event supervisor with Feed My Starving Children, said the meals packed at this event will be enough to feed almost 300 children for an entire year. It hasn’t been determined yet where the meals will go, but Nikkel said possible destinations could include Central Asia or Africa. She said her organization is also doing a lot of work in Haiti, because of natural disasters there, and in the Philippines, where they are working on a sustainability project.
Nikkel said the organization works with more than a million volunteers each year.
“We are fully funded and donated by volunteers – the meals are packed by volunteers, they are funded by volunteers,” she said. “It’s so very real what we’re doing, and it’s very fun and it’s fulfilling work.”
Richards said he’s grateful for the East Helena School District allowing them to hold the meal-packing event there, and to everyone who volunteered.
“I just think it’s great that we can do something when there’s a tsunami or a cyclone or hurricane and we can come into some part of the world and be able to feed people,” he said.