A friend posted on Facebook about a volunteering experience she regularly takes part in and how great she felt about it. I wanted some of that too. It was near my birthday and I celebrated by nourishing the world’s children. A friend and I signed up for a shift at the Libertyville location for Feed My Starting Children. Let me tell about it.
We showed up ready to make meals to send to one of 70 underdeveloped countries around the world. After signing in, everyone receives a hairnet and an invitation to join a total of 123 others in a large room with lots of wooden benches. We were introduced to the team leader in charge of the 11:30-1:30pm shift, saw a brief video on the organization, had an overview on what we were going to do, and then proceeded to scrub up and get down to work. We were making manna.
You might have heard of the word manna in connection with the Bible. Manna was the miraculous food that fed the Israelites when they were in the Egyptian desert. Manna is also defined as an unexpected, but much needed gift, divine nourishment, or some special assistance to relieve pain or discontent. You get the gist, nourishment for the body and mind.
Costing less than $1.32, the manna that I helped prepare is a prepackaged dry meal, which provides a nutritionally complete and protein-rich serving for six children. It addresses hunger for the severely malnourished child, while being in an acceptable form for all cultures. This is very important, because these three special formulas prepared solely by volunteers in seven permanent sites and many mobile ones need to meet requirements by WHO, or World Health Organization.
Feed My Starving Children is a Christian nonprofit organization and was started in 1987 to provide complete nutritionally-based meals for starving, malnourished, and recovering children. It has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator for eight out of the last 10 years. A much higher score than many more recognizable charities, with 92 percent of total donations going right to the task of feeding children.
There are a number of sites for volunteering in the Chicago area, but the Libertyville location was closest for us. You could go by yourself, with a group, or plan an event with your family. Birthday parties with a twist for children, scouting events, school or church outings can be scheduled for two-hour shifts on Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday. Children as young as kindergarteners are welcome with an adult, and as the kids get older, the number with an adult increases.
Prairie Trail School’s Student Service Council in Wadsworth worked some community service hours before school was dismissed for the summer. Ilene Kile, a council sponsor and special education teacher, said, “We united as a group from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal, giving back to the community and to make a difference in the world.” These kids packed 147 boxes during their shift, which is equivalent to 31,752 meals or enough to feed 87 children for a whole year.
“It was quite a rewarding experience to listen to the students talk about how wonderful it was to know they were helping others, while having fun working together.”
Many of the parents contacted Kile to express their appreciation for providing the event for their children to participate in and many of them have returned to assist as a family. Kile confirmed the group would donate and visit Feed My Starving Children this coming year.
I guarantee this is the best two hours you’ll ever have for volunteering. The room is full of like-minded individuals joining together to feed the world. If standing is a problem, sitdown jobs are available. From adding the dehydrated veggies, soy, enriched vitamin powder, and rice or potato base, weighing, sealing, filling the cases, and moving them to the warehouse, everyone had a job. Even the waste was used to feed local farm animals. Music played and the cheers when another case was ready for the pallet were heard from each station named for one of the countries serviced. After cleaning up the stations for the next shift, we said a prayer over the pallets of food ready to be shipped to their chosen destination of the day.
Before our session ended, we were given a sample of what we just packaged and we heard the numbers we produced. In our session, we made enough for 73 kids to eat for a year. In two short hours, we made a major difference. I tell you, it did my heart good.
Feed My Starving Children's Libertyville location is at 742 E. Park Avenue (Route 176). There are also sites in Schaumburg and Aurora. The website is fmsc.org/locations/libertyville. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Odie Pahl is a local freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com.