by Mike Parks
LAKE PARK – Nine hours, 240 volunteers, 50,000 meals. A daunting task? Faith United Methodist Church doesn’t think so.
The church congregation will come together this weekend with Kids Against Hunger-Charlotte to pack 50,000 meals for hungry families in Nicaragua. They’ll work throughout the day Saturday, March 24, before the boxes hit the road for the long trip to Central America. It’s a big event for the church, and the perfect one to kick off a new era for the congregation.
Pastor Lonnie Pittman, who joined the church last year, wants his congregation to start doing more in the community and for the community. He says “it’s a blessing to be loved by God,” and instead of just sitting around and being happy with that blessing, he wants Faith UMC to share the blessing with others who need it.
“I think the local church has to move away from the mindset of let’s attract new people and make them happy and move into a mindset of let’s attract new people so we can help others in need,” Pittman said. “We want to attract them so they are actually making a difference in the world and transforming their community. It’s time for us to start impacting.”
So, the church will start doing community service projects all the time, starting this weekend and then working up to a point where there’s another event each month. The church already plans to have a May event working on the homes of local elderly families, and will hold a Independence Day-style cookout in June for homeless people in Charlotte.
But first things first… those 50,000 meals.
Bob Wilber, the church member who is working to organize Saturday’s event, explains the process as such: first, church youth will work decorating the boxes being shipped to Nicaragua, because many of the families there will use the boxes to line the walls inside their home. So the kids are drawing pictures and writing messages to help transform the boxes into artwork. Then the assembly line starts. A team of three people at each table will scoop the rice, soy and vitamin and mineral packs into bags, which move down the line to be weighed. Then it’s sealed and moved on to packaging, where someone makes sure each box has 36 bags inside before it’s ready to go. Suzanne Yoh, from Kids Against Hunger-Charlotte, says each bag holds six servings of food. One serving, or about a cup, will nourish a child for a day, Yoh said. Meals cost about 15-cents each, and groups like Faith UMC raise that cash and find the volunteers. If they don’t have a space for packing it all up, Yoh can usually find somewhere to go – usually Charlotte Christian School or Harrison United Methodist Church, which are both friendly with the organization.
Kids Against Hunger-Charlotte then works with Samaritan’s International in Waxhaw, and the meals are shipped around the world.
“Families can do this together,” Yoh said of why these events are so popular. “Old people can do it sitting down in a chair, and young people can do it standing up on a chair at their table.”
That’s likely to be the case Saturday, as young and old come together to pack meals.
“The community jumped on this,” Wilber said. “It’s amazing because Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have signed up … and preschools have worked on letters to include in the boxes. It’s just been amazing.”
Kids Against Hunger-Charlotte often has volunteer opportunities available. Find more information on the group at its website, www.kidsagainsthungercharlotte.org.
And Faith UMC will continue looking for more ways to serve the community, Pittman said, and more people to join the congregation to help in those projects. Find more information about the church, at 3708 Faith Church Road, at its website, www.faithisalive.org.