Volunteers at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Gastonia were a well oiled machine Sunday afternoon as they worked to feed the hungry around the world.
Volunteers in hairnets gathered around a table, as the process began of stuffing clear plastic bags with a pack of vitamins, dehydrated soy protein, dehydrated veggies and a scoop of rice.
Bags were then pushed forward to others to weigh, seal, and then pack up. The bags of food help support Rise Against Hunger, an international food relief ministry.
For every 1,000 bags packed up, a gong would ring out, helping the volunteers celebrate a milestone.
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Blane Maxwell, community engagement manager for Rise Against Hunger represented the international non-profit at the York Street church.
In 2019, Rise Against Hunger packed more than 77 million meals. The meals were then distributed to more than 36 different countries.
“As an organization we’ve packed over half a billion meals and we’ve distributed to over 78 different countries,” said Maxwell.
Food being packaged up on Sunday came from the Midwest. The Gastonia church raised about $3,500 to cover the cost of the event. Around 50 volunteers showed up at the York Street church to work and pack the boxes up.
The goal for Sunday’s pack was 10,152 meals. Every bag being filled contained six meals. Of these bags, 36 go into each box. Each box contained 216 meals.
“Every one of those boxes, if it goes to a school feeding program, one of those boxes can feed one child for an entire school year,” said Maxwell.
If the box ends up in the Caribbean island country of Haiti for emergency and disaster relief, each box could feed a family of four for a month.
Belmont resident Bruce Zander helped organize the efforts at the church on Sunday. Volunteers don’t know yet where their humanitarian efforts will end up, he said. Last year’s food boxes went to Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.
“We’re showing the world the light of Christ. We have to not only be fed spiritually but we have to be fed physically and that’s what we’re doing,” said Zander.
This year marked four years of Zander being a part of the effort, though the church had done it previously before he joined the congregation.
“I just feel that Christ has called me to do this. I have a soft spot in my heart for social ministry,” said Zander.
“It’s just a joy for us as a congregation,” he said.
Jim Warren was lending a hand in efforts on Sunday. He felt it was important for him to volunteer his time given he has been a member of the church for close to 50 years.
“We do a lot of good things here,” he said.
The church also participates in a mission in Guatemala. They also host a homeless family for a week and give them a place to sleep and eat.
Warren said he wanted to be involved Sunday because he enjoys the community outreach and working together with members of the congregation.
“Since COVID started we haven’t had much time to go to church so it’s a good time to get together and renew old friendships,” said Warren.
As a church, Warren said the congregation’s goal stands at wanting to help people not only in their own backyard but all over the world.
“If we can feed this many children and this many adults at one time, that’s super,” he said.
Sarah Marino can be reached at 704-869-1850 or [email protected].