By DENISE FEOROW Correspondent
---- — NAPPANEE — For the fourth year in a row, a mobile food packing facility, manned by thousands of excited volunteers of all ages, has been set up at Nappanee Missionary Church.
Church officials partnered with Feed My Starving Children, an organization that lead pastor Dave Engbrecht said he fully scrutinized “with major due diligence” before choosing to partner with them.
“We think in the world of non-profits they’re tops as far as getting the food to the people with the least cost,” Engbrecht said.
Andy Carr of Feed My Starving Children said 92 percent of the donations go directly to the food.
“We count on our partners like Nappanee Missionary Church,” said Carr.
Mobile food sites raise the funds for the meals, which cost 22 cents a meal, provide the facility and recruit the volunteers—8400 volunteers will work two hour shifts over the three day event.
Those volunteers come from schools, churches, organizations and businesses in more than seven counties including Elkhart, Kosciusko, Lagrange, Marshall, Fulton, St. Joseph,
Marion, also Grant and Allen County and a church group from Kalamazoo, Mich.
“It blows my mind to watch this thing explode,” Pastor Engbrecht said.
Schools including Triton Elementary, Lakeland Christian Academy, Warsaw Community Schools, Jimtown, Bremen, Wa-Nee, Cornerstone Christian Montessori School and even smaller groups from Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne and athletic groups from Bethany High School, Grace College soccer and girl’s basketball, Middlebury swim team, wrestlers, volleyball players are all involved in this cause.
Jimtown brought the biggest group with 740 students involved.
A company in Bremen sent 275 volunteers Tuesday night and Turtle Top in New Paris sent 225, and that’s just a sampling of the five page list of volunteers involved.
“Some people take a week’s vacation to be here,” Pastor Dave said.
He said because Nappanee Missionary is a regional church the word gets around to different areas and organizations and as more people participate they spread the word. The goal this year is to package 2.2 million meals and several semi-trucks were already filled by mid-morning Wednesday.
“The Lord’s been real good to provide the money needed,” Pastor Dave said. The church will have packaged more than 6 million meals for the organization in the four years. They will also help local food pantries this month, too.
“We’re not just feeding kids in Haiti (where most of these meals will go) there are kids in Goshen and the area hungry too—we can do both,” he said.
The mobile food packaging site is a well-oiled machine with labelers, box makers, food weighers, food fillers, bag sealers, box sealers, runners to run tubs of food or filled boxes to other stations, pallet tapers and semi-loaders.
Loud music motivates the workers as well as challenges such as, ‘Who can fill four boxes in 15 minutes?” shouted out to the crowd.
Before and after photos of the children line the walls to also serve as visual reminders of why they are all there.
Most volunteers, no matter their age know they are a part of something big and something special and were thrilled to be there “saving lives for little kids” as Danny Kline of Triton Elementary said.
Ten-year old Ashley Kaufman from Triton Elementary just got out of the hospital this week and she said she told her doctor no matter what, she was going to be there.
Kaufman’s genetic dwarfism causes her to have a small immune system.
“So I know how it feels,” she said. “To have a compromised immune system. When I get sick I’m sick for a long time—it’s hard to fight it off.”
This was her first time at the event.
“I love it! I love helping the poor kids who can’t get enough food and I love doing something that makes a difference,” Kauffman said.