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At 6 a.m. I dress, take a shower, eat breakfast and board the 100 North Yellow bus. It’s like any regular school day, except it’s Saturday. Where was I going… I was going to the old Hobby Lobby to volunteer for Million Meals for Haiti the biggest volunteer event in all of Champaign history.

Million Meals was part of the yearly Day of interfaith youth service, in which groups from different faiths work together to benefit the community. This year marked my third day of service.

The salvation army jumped at the opportunity to fund the event, while Kansas based food distributor, Numana provided the food. The meals, according to Numana, include rice, soy and dried vegetables and are fortified with vitamins and flavoring.

Interfaith in action, which organized the Day of intefaith youth service, estimated that they needed 8,000 volunteers to reach their goal of a million meals.

Several businesses, university groups, religious organizations, and individuals spread the word either orally or through fliers for he event. Uni’s Life Club joined in on the action.

“Kelly Beryl (Erin’s mom) sent an email out to LIFE Club asking if we would be interested in doing this, and we all thought it was a good idea, so LIFE Club members that were available went out and signed up for different shifts. We also decided that we would donate the club’s money from pizza sales to Salvation Army since they’re also a Christian-based organization,” said junior and president of Life Club, Nancy Tang.

With all the publicity, by the time I had arrived at eight a.m., the Hobby Lobby was teaming with life. At the entrance, everyone waited in line for five to ten minutes to enter the building, after which a red shirted volunteer would hand out a salvation army wristband. We would go through another line to wash our hands, after which everyone would form groups of twelve led by another red shirt. A red shirt is a special volunteer who works a four hour shift as opposed to the two hour ship most volunteers worked.

One by one, we moved to a table in groups of twelve, after which everyone donned gloves, a hair net, and an apron. Each person was assigned a specialized role at their table, and the packaging worked as an assembly line.

First, a volunteer placed a Numana bag under a funnel. A waiting volunteer then placed rice into that funnel, while other volunteers inserted seasoning, beans, and vegetables. Two volunteers worked to either add or take away some rice to keep the bags at a constant weight, after which two volunteers would seal the plastic bags. Ultimately, I worked as a bag flattener, while two other volunteers boxed the meals for shipping.

The boxes needed a lot of tape to prevent ripping while being air dropped by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. Each box contained 44 six serving bags. Each of the approximately 45 tables in the first shift was able to pump out around 10 boxes, amounting to over 120,000 packed meals.

The first early morning shift was unbelievably successful. By the end of Saturday, 880,000 meals were prepared. The event was well organized that only the first Sunday shift remained. By 2:30 p.m. the volunteers had accomplished the goal of one million meals for Haiti.

In retrospect, I felt that this volunteer event was the most useful cause I’ve worked for. Due to the great coordination of the event, I participated in the preparation of almost 2000 meals that will nourish Haitians in need.

I learned that a creative high goal that a small organization strives for can reach an epic scale volunteer effort.

But the most important thing for Haiti in the long run is for it to get back on its heels. This will require more creative volunteer efforts, education, and investment on everyone’s behalf. So my message to you is simple: brainstorm, focus upon a goal, then work to achieve it.

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One Comment

  1. no spam here


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