The third annual community meal-packing event is set for April 20 and 21 at Advent Lutheran Church in Boca Raton, 300 Yamato Rd, Boca Raton. Packing sessions will be 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, and from 9 – 11 a.m. and noon – 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21. For more information on Join The Pack, including sponsorship opportunities, please call Cassandra Celestin at 954-427-2222, ext. 4020. Or, to register for the event, visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/jointhe
Longtime partners Feed My Starving Children and Food For The Poor once again are teaming up with an army of South Florida volunteers. Their mission: To pack thousands of lifesaving meals for starving children.
At this year’s Join The Pack, businesses, churches and community groups will assemble 150,000 specially formulated MannaPack rice meals for children in Guatemala, according to Feed My Starving Children calculations.
The third annual community meal-packing event is set for April 20 and 21 at Advent Lutheran Church in Boca Raton.
In addition to packing meals, volunteers will also raise enough money to send an additional 3 million meals to families in Latin American and Caribbean countries served by Food For The Poor.
Feed My Starving Children and Food For The Poor joined forces for the first time in 2008. That partnership added up to 54 million meals a year in 2017.
“Food For The Poor is our biggest partner,” said Mark Crea, Executive Director/CEO of Feed My Starving Children, on a recent visit to the charity’s Coconut Creek headquarters. “We don’t do this without you. You bring this food to so many people. You change their lives. You blend that with all of the other things that you do. When we work together with Christ in the middle, one plus one is three.”
Guatemala suffers from one of the worst rates of chronic malnutrition in the world. At a young age, it can lead to stunting, a condition that affects both physical growth and brain development, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The most vulnerable are the Mayan communities who live in the highlands, where stunting affects almost 70 percent of children younger than 5.
Joe Cox lived in Guatemala for four years and saw up close the needs of starving children who were foraging for food out of garbage dumps. Cox is Region 6 Public Relations Coordinator for the Knights of Columbus, which has committed to packing meals and raising money for Join The Pack.
“The Knights’ first principle is charity,” he said. “Local KofC councils are excited to join volunteers from area organizations and churches for Join The Pack.”
Cox’s wife, Regina Rodriguez de Cox, is from Guatemala. She is a doctor who was recruited by then-First Lady of Guatemala Wendy de Berger to operate a clinic at one of the dumps.
“It’s very moving. It brings tears to your eyes, especially to see little children rummaging through the dumps,” Joe Cox said. “You want to do something urgently. But as one person, how do you even help? It’s nice that there are organizations like Food For The Poor and the Knights of Columbus that send delegations there to do mission work. You become aware of opportunities to contribute through organized charities, something you wouldn’t be able to do on a person-to-person basis. And then there are wonderful events like Join The Pack that provide the opportunity to give back.”
Packing sessions will be from to 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, and from 9 to 11 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21. Individual volunteers can join an existing team or create their own team to raise funds to purchase the dehydrated foods used to complete the meal packs. Each team will consist of at least 10 volunteers committed to raising a total of $500.
Jersey Mike’s, the official refreshment sponsor for Join The Pack, will host a special fundraiser on Feb. 15 and 16 to benefit the event. Customers at the restaurant’s Parkland location at 7011 N. State Road 7 will receive a free regular hot or cold sub, salad or wrap with a $3 donation to Join The Pack.
“We couldn’t be more excited to raise money for the malnourished and starving children in Guatemala, mainly because we believe our kids are our future,” said Jersey Mike’s Operating Partner Andrew Rehmann.
At last year’s Join The Pack, more than 500 volunteers packed 124,416 lifesaving meals to feed 340 starving children in Haiti three times a day every day for a year. Enough money was raised by generous donors to provide an additional 2.7 million meals that were sent to needy families in countries served by Food For The Poor.
The easy-to-make, easy-to-transport meals put together by Join The Pack volunteers are an answer to countless prayers. For children in danger of starvation, these meals are like manna from heaven.
Volunteers work in assembly lines to fill plastic bags with cups of white rice and soy pellets, scoops of freeze-dried vegetables and chicken flavoring that contains all the essential vitamins and nutrients a malnourished child needs to survive. Once prepared with boiling water, each MannaPack provides six generous servings of nutritious food.
“It’s not a matter of feeding hungry children. It’s a matter of feeding starving children who are actually dying of hunger,” said Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma. “People always are looking for meaningful ways they can get involved with Food For The Poor, and this is a wonderful opportunity to do something on a large scale with local volunteers.”
DaVita Healthcare, which had one of the top two fundraising teams last year, will participate in this year’s event and is a presenting sponsor. DaVita is a large healthcare organization that provides dialysis to kidney patients throughout the country.
For more information on Join The Pack, including sponsorship opportunities, please call Cassandra Celestin at 954-427-2222, ext. 4020. Or, to register for the event, visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/jointhepack.
Follow this link to watch how the meals like those packed by Join The Pack volunteers helped a malnourished, underweight child from Guatemala come to normal weight: www.FoodForThePoor.com/jointhepack2018 .
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. Over the last 10 years, fundraising and other administrative costs averaged less than 5% of our expenses; more than 95% of all donations, including donated goods, went directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.