AUGUSTA — It’s not that Alexis Everett didn’t have other things she could have been doing on a Saturday afternoon, but the 16-year-old from Chelsea said there was nowhere more important for her to be than volunteering alongside her grandmother, scooping cupfuls of soy and rice into bags that will feed hungry people in need in one of 70 countries.

Everett joined hundreds of other volunteers to pack more than 100,000 meals Saturday for Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization that will distribute the bags of food, each of which contains enough food to feed a meal to about six people, to people in developing nations struggling to find enough food to survive.

“I’d rather be doing this,” Everett said. “It’s a great way to meet a lot of new people and help people around the world. It makes you feel better about yourself.”

Her grandmother, Sandra Mason, of Augusta, who scooped a powdered vitamin mix and dehydrated vegetables into the bags, said she thinks the event won’t benefit just starving children in foreign countries but also the approximately 500 people who came together at Cony High School to pack the bags of food.

“The community needed this,” she said, smiling as she packed food, and occasionally danced alongside her granddaughter to the rock music blasting in the Cony gymnasium. “I think there are a lot of good people who like to do good things. They just need an opportunity.”

Working at the same packing station were Philip and Jamie Smith, of Damariscotta, and their 7-year-old triplets, Elijah, Moriah and Zuriel. The siblings took turns at different jobs, switching between filling bags with a funnel, sealing the bags up to keep the contents in place, and packing the finished bags into boxes, 36 to a box. Philip Smith said they came because it seemed like a great opportunity to do something with their children that helps other people.

Jamie Smith has done overseas mission work previously, in Peru, and worked at an orphanage in Guatemala. She said she knows from experience that the type of healthy, protein-packed meals they were packing up Saturday will be appreciated by the hungry people who receive them.

“When you don’t have any food, you’re very grateful” to receive it, she said.

Three shifts of area residents worked to pack food Saturday, each building toward the group’s goal of packing enough food for 101,088 meals.

Pennsylvania resident and volunteer Emma Robinson, a team leader for Feed My Starving Children, said the food the 162 people on the second of the three shifts of volunteers packed in about two hours Saturday would provide about 39,528 meals. They filled 183 boxes, with each box containing 216 meals.

“You, today, changed so many young lives,” she told the volunteers. Robinson showed a video produced by the nonprofit Christian organization featuring the story of Emmanuel, who at two-and-a-half years old weighed only 9 pounds because of a lack of food, who was so malnourished he couldn’t even walk and had no hair. After being fed “MannaPacks” meals like those assembled Saturday, for one year, the Ugandan boy, whose mother had died, regained the ability to walk, his hair grew back and his weight increased to 22 pounds. Robinson said the boy is now 5, and thriving.

The event was sponsored by Kennebec Community Church and organized by Aaron Smith, a church member who got the idea for the packing event a year ago after helping at a similar event in New Hampshire, with his 15-year-old daughter Haley, that was organized by his 16-year-old niece, Morgan Smith, and her father, Peter Smith.

He said organizing the event was daunting and he couldn’t have done it without a commitment from the church, which he said agreed to try to raise at least $10,000 to help offset the cost of the food.

“It’s great to see the community come together with the church and do something like this,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t have done it, but I’ve seen what Kennebec Community Church has done in the past.”

However, he said fundraising to cover the $22,000 cost of the food ingredients and the event has been a challenge. Short of that goal, he said, they have a few months to meet the commitment to raise the money, and people still can donate. Donors can contribute online either by finding the local event on the web pages of Feed My Starving Children, or through Kennebec Community Church’s website.

Most of the volunteers and organizers prayed together, over the boxes of food they’d just packed, at the conclusion of the event.

Robinson said they believe their prayers are what allow them to have such a high success rate, at 99.8 percent, of the meals they ship reaching their intended destination.

Pennsylvania resident Dan Knor, event supervisor for Feed My Starving Children, said 91 percent of the money raised by the organization goes directly into meal production and distribution. Last year the group oversaw the packing of 284 million meals. This year their goal is 315 million, Knor said. The group’s overall goal is to end world hunger.

Knor said the organization gives food to people in need in 70 foreign countries. He said it would provide food to Americans in need too, if called to do so, though he said Americans haven’t expressed interest in the type of meals they provide. The meals cost 22 cents each to make.

Mason said that’s something she likes about the effort, that money given to the volunteer organization doesn’t go to pay high salaries for its administrators.

His white hair tucked under a hair net, something all volunteers were required to wear, Robert Ebert, of Greene, also wore a broad smile as he filled up boxes of rice for the food packers to use to fill the smaller bags, out of a huge bag of rice that sat on a pallet behind him. He said he was happy to see so many youngsters there, volunteering with their families.

“They’re being raised right,” he said of the many children there helping out.

Asked why he was there volunteering, Ebert said money comes and goes, but what really matters is what is in your heart.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.