By David Rogers. March 18, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — They may have been observing Lent, but 80-something Blowing Rock volunteers were rockin’ and rollin’ on Sunday afternoon at the American Legion Building, in more ways than one.
COVER IMAGE: Some 80 volunteers from three churches and a campus ministry from Appalachian State filled 1,000 packets of nutrition every seven and a half minutes. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
With Neal Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and other golden oldies periodically playing in the background, the high energy, multi-generational “team” comprised of members from Rumple Memorial Presbyterian, St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal, and Faithbridge Methodist, as well as 15 students from Appalachian State University’s Presbyterian Episcopal Campus Ministry filled 10,152 food packages for Rise Against Hunger, formerly Stop Hunger Now.
In the first 45 minutes, the volunteer group had already sounded their sixth “gong”, each one signalling that another 1,000 packets had been measured, sealed and packed for distribution in some faraway country.
Each packet contained a measured amount of dehydrated vegetables and soy (for protein), as well as vitamins, Rise Against Hunger coordinator Hannah Chenault reported to Blowing Rock News. Formerly known as Stop Hunger Know, she explained that the organization’s re-branding in January 2017 was in response to initiatives pursuing new pathways toward ending hunger globally, and to empower sustainable communities.
We could not achieve our mission without volunteers like these here today.
Founded in 1998, the Raleigh, NC-based non-profit agency has packaged and delivered more than 380 million meals to 74 countries around the world.
“We could not do all of this,” Chenault noted while pointed at the almost seven dozen men, women and youth, each capped in the requisite hair nets, “if it were not for the many volunteers just like these here in Blowing Rock’s American Legion Building today. The volunteers make this work.”
What also makes it work is the Rise Against Hunger organization’s delivery of the packets to food centers in each country served, rather than, say, sending cash to the foreign country.
“With our partners in each country receiving the food,” observed Chenault, “we know the food products are getting into the hands of the people who need the help.”
Rev. Kathy Beach, pastor at Rumple Presbyterian, explained to Blowing Rock News that the event evolved as she and the university’s Rev. Stephanie Hankins were thinking about how to better connect the Hankins’ students with the Blowing Rock Presbyterian and Episcopal churches that help sponsor the campus group.
It started with a small idea and grew from there.
“It began with a conversation that Stephanie Hankins and I had,” explained Beach, “about getting the students with her Campus Ministry better connected with the churches, here, specifically with Rumple and St. Mary of the Hills. Some folks from Rumple’s Mission Committee approached members from St. Mary’s Mission Committee about their potential interest in joining in the effort to do a Rise Against Hunger project with App State students. They said, ‘Sure!’
“The Blowing Rock area clergy meet from time to time,” Beach said. “When Ben (Carson), the Lead Pastor over at Faithbridge United Methodist heard what we were doing, he asked if a group of volunteers from his congregation could help. We said, ‘Of course! The more the merrier!’ So it started with a small idea and grew from there.”
Beach also explained that as the group of pastors were talking, they agreed that it would be really great if the Rise Against Hunger event could happen during Lent.
“This turned out to be a Sunday that worked for Rise Against Hunger, too,” Beach concluded. “So we all decided that this would be a great time to come together and serve others.”
Hankins reported that when Chenault got everyone together today, before starting to pack meals, she put the mission into perspective by asking everyone to count to 10 with her.
“We all counted to 10,” said Hankins. “And then she told us that every 10 seconds someone in the world dies from hunger.”