Last Saturday (Dec. 1), St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was filled with elves. Well, not really.
But walking into their hall was like what I imagine Santa’s workshop would resemble—music, singing, assembly lines and different work stations.
Close to 100 volunteers came together to package meals for starving people of third world countries. These volunteers had previously raised money to purchase food provided by Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger-relief organization based in Raleigh. According to the organization’s website, “Stop Hunger Now’s meal packaging program provides volunteers the opportunity to package dehydrated, high protein, and highly nutritious meals that are used in crisis situations and in school feeding programs for schools and orphanages in developing countries around the world.”
The dehydrated meals are comprised of rice, soy, vegetables, flavoring, and 21 essential vitamins and minerals that make a soup which feeds six people. SHN delivers the food, and the volunteers come together to measure, weigh, seal, and box the meals for distribution to people in need.
Chris Singleton, a Stop Hunger Now employee from the southeast distribution center in Raleigh, NC, drove a truck down with the supplies and took the packaged and boxed meals back to the Raleigh. I asked Singleton how he got involved with SHN. He told me that he used to be a pastor, but he got tired of preaching to people, telling them to do good and serve. Instead of preaching, now he actually goes into these countries and gives the people the food they need.
This is St. Nicholas’s second annual packaging event for Stop Hunger Now. SHN requires groups to raise enough money for 10,000 meals. One meal costs only 25 cents.
But rather than simply raising as much money as possible for the event, the church wanted to have a more focused and intentional goal.
Jim Stasios, the co-chairman who served with Irene Vogiatais, explained, “One of our parishioners asked how many people die each day because of malnutrition and hunger. So, we did some research on the computer and found that 25,000 people die from hunger-related causes a day. So, 25,000 meals became our goal. We needed to raise $6,250.”
They exceeded their goal, raising $8,132 with the help of some partners.
Their partners this year were: KT Community Foundation, Davita Healthcare Partners, St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas “GOYA” Youth, and ATTEPA- Cape Fear Chapter #408.
The Davita Healthcare Partners provided a grant for $2,000 which surpassed St. Nicholas’ goal. The number of meals provided totaled more than 32,000 meals.
That’s a lot of rice and soy. That’s a lot of saved lives and a lot of hope packed up in boxes and loaded in a truck.
These were some of the sacrificial suggestions the youth group was given to raise money for the meals:
1. Email or call family and friends asking them to make donations.
2. “Trick or Eat” - At Halloween, they carried Stop Hunger Now jars to collect coins instead of candy.
3. Fast - Give up one candy bar a week (saving $1), or one soda a week (saving $1), or one ice cream a week (saving $3), or one designer coffee drink a week (saving $4 or more), or one meal out a week (saving $7 or more) and donate that to SNH.
4. Eat a meal, Buy a meal: Buy a meal for a hungry child every time you eat by putting 25 cents in a jar. Or every time you have a soda, ice cream, coffee or candy, put 25 cents in a jar. Have your parents do the same.
5. Do chores: Do yard work for your parents or neighbors and request they make a 25 cent or $1 donation on your behalf.
I think we all could glean from incorporating some of those sacrifices in our daily lives.
What if all of us put 25 cents in a jar every time we ate a meal or drank a coffee from our favorite coffee shop? Or better yet, what if we fasted from our meal or coffee one day a week and gave that money toward a local or international program to feed somebody who is hungry. Just think how many lives we could save.