Volunteers package meals

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rotary Club members Bob House, Rick Matthews, Eileen Gizara and Alyssa Lester volunteered to package food for Stop Hunger Now.

Rotary Club members Bob House, Rick Matthews, Eileen Gizara and Alyssa Lester volunteered to package food for Stop Hunger Now.

Roughly 200 Rotarians from across Suffolk and Churchland descended upon Ebenezer United Methodist Church Saturday and fixed 27,000 meals.

Working in two shifts, volunteers from the North Suffolk, Suffolk, Churchland and Portsmouth Rotary clubs joined forces to pack meals for Stop Hunger Now.

The North Carolina-based nonprofit organization, Stop Hunger Now, is a meal-packaging program that uses volunteers to package dehydrated, high-protein and nutritious meals that are used in crisis situations and feeding programs in schools and orphanages in developing countries.

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Together, the four Rotary clubs and Ebenezer donated $9,000 for Stop Hunger Now, said Rob Estes, a member of the North Suffolk Rotary Club. That club has been participating in Stop Hunger Now events for the past eight years.

“You can really see and feel your money being put to work, particularly because you produce such large shipments,” Estes said, adding that many people bring their families to participate in the food-packaging event. “The events are a blast.”

Estes appreciates the sustainability that Stop Hunger Now offers with its product. The organization serves and distributes the food packages in schools, which serves as an incentive to keep students returning to classes, Estes said.

“The kids will be there for the food – and get an education in the process,” said Estes. “They leverage the food to keep the kids in school … which in turn gets them more economic opportunities.”

By the time volunteers are finished, each sealed bag contains about 3.5 pounds of dehydrated vegetables, grains, rice and vitamins. Each bag will feed five or six people, he said.

“It’s easy to write a check but you don’t always get to see how that money gets put to use,” Estes said. “This is hands-on and and you have the opportunity to enjoy the fellowship and teamwork that comes with packaging the food.”

About 30 members of the Suffolk Rotary Club participated, said Kenda Council, co-chairman of community outreach for the organization. Service is an important part of Rotary International, and Stop Hunger Now is aligned with the Rotary’s philosophy of giving back to communities worldwide.

“You feel good after you have finished your part of the task,” said

Suffolk Rotarian Jennefer Ambrose. The downtown Suffolk club has done Stop Hunger Now projects for three years.

“It also gives you an opportunity to meet people that you don’t know,” said Ambrose. “You have a good hour of conversation and working with new people.”