By Clint Palmer, development manager with Feed My Starving Children
Families throughout the Valley are creating new traditions of giving back to their community during the holidays, particularly through service opportunities in which the entire family can participate.
Each year, Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), a Christian non-profit that tackles world hunger by sending volunteer-packed, nutritious meals to 70 countries, invites families to start or continue a holiday tradition of service by volunteering at the Hope Filled Holidayevent, this year Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
This event will give area individuals and families the opportunity to join more than 10,000 volunteers who will pack two million mealsover the course of the three days. Volunteers will work in two-hour shifts (there will be 10 shifts total!). Each shift includes an orientation, time spent packing meals in an assembly-line fashion, and the opportunity to learn more about hunger in our world and how FMSC works to alleviate it.Families will come away from the experience not only feeling good about the positive impact of their efforts, but also more knowledgeable about the issue of hunger throughout the globe.
Volunteering at the Hope Filled Holiday event can truly be a multi-generational endeavor. Children as young as fivecan come pack if accompanied by an adult, and there are seated jobs for those who cannot stand for a two-hour packing session. Volunteers can sign up at fmsc.org/azholiday.
“Packing with FMSC is the best volunteer experience around,” says FMSC MobilePack Development Advisor Nate Shepherd. “Family and friends come together in a lively atmosphere, and after their two-hour shift, they know they’ve really made a difference in the lives of others. I can’t imagine a better holiday tradition.”
In addition to meal-packing, the organization is fundraising to pay for the meal ingredients themselves through sponsorships, donations and an on-site raffle. Many local corporations already have signed on as sponsors and will use the event to serve as their holiday “office” celebration. If your business is interested in participating, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 1987, FMSC has been packing meals that are specifically designed to reverse and prevent malnutrition. These “MannaPack” meals are used in schools, orphanages, clinics and feeding programs to break the cycle of poverty. FMSC meals are hand-packed by volunteers and sent to an incredible network of partner organizations who distribute them to those in need. Nearly 1.2 million volunteers packed more than 333 million FMSC meals in 2017. More than 90 percent of total donations go directly to feed kids.
The meals packed at the Hope Filled Holiday event will be part of FMSC’s response to current and anticipated famines around the world. FMSC plans to immediately pack and ship at least 10 million meals requested by partner organizations working in Somalia and Haiti. Thousands of FMSC MannaPack™ meals have already been sent, but the need continues to rise. Last year, FMSC sent 1.6 million meals to Somalia and 101 million meals to Haiti. Arizona packing efforts, including the two million meals that will be packed at Hope Filled Holidays, are an integral part of this effort.
Due to violent conflict in South Sudan, many feeding programs in the region have been suspended as meal recipients of partner organizations have fled the country as refugees. There are an estimated 750,000 refugees from South Sudan currently living in Uganda, where FMSC food distribution partners are reaching thousands of these refugees every day with FMSC MannaPack meals. FMSC also is currently working to resume meal shipments to South Sudan once a secure route is successfully established.
FMSC has been in the Valley since 2007, first with MobilePack events at area churches, and then with a site in south Tempe. The site moved to larger quarters in Mesa in 2015 and now hosts more than 12,000 volunteers each month.
Make service a part of your holiday planning this year! Join us at the Hope Filled Holiday event.