Congregation comes together to fight worldwide hunger

Jul. 27, 2013 @ 03:32 PM

More than 75 people in hair nets and plastic gloves gathered around tables Saturday morning at Peace Missionary Baptist Church, where they sifted rice, soy and dehydrated vegetables together to create little baggies of nutrition.

Those baggies of food will be sent all over the world to those plagued by hunger. As part of the church’s 39th anniversary celebration this weekend, the congregation has banded together to help Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency based in Raleigh that coordinates the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to children and families worldwide.

This is the second year volunteers have gathered at the church to weigh parcels of rice and fill boxes with food. Only an hour into their sorting and packaging, volunteers neared 5,000 completed meals.

Someone struck a giant metal gong at the front of the room every time they added 1,000 meals to their tally sheet. The goal was 10,000 that day, and the meals would eventually be shipped off to serve as supplies in crisis situations, for school feeding programs and in orphanages.

“It’s a blessing for us to be able to bless someone else,” said Ruby Thompkins, who has been a member of Peace Missionary Baptist since 1989.

Shawn Fischer walked around the room, checking on meal bags and the flow of the work stations. He’s worked with Stop Hunger Now for six months as a chef, or certified hunger event coordinator. He said the meals have a shelf life of three years, but they only stay in their warehouse for one or two months before they’re shipped off to families in need.

“It’s what we’re about,” Fischer said. “It’s about getting people to take that first step to realize the solution is in us.”

Blair Kelley, who serves on the church planning committee that put together the event, said this is the first and only African-American church in the area to host a Stop Hunger Now effort.

“It’s something that we’re giving back to the needy communities all over the world,” Kelley said. “Last year, we wanted to do shifts, but that didn’t work because people didn’t want to leave their stations.”

Her daughter, 9-year-old Julia, jumped up and down in excitement while wearing her hair net, gloves and yellow summer skirt.

“It’s going to be so much fun!” she said. “…I’m working with my friends to save parts of the world.”

Warren Mack, 26, said he’s been a member of the church since he was a kid. After Peace Missionary Baptist participated in last year’s Stop Hunger Now volunteer event, he said he’s inspired to start his own humanitarian mission, by creating a nonprofit that tackles health care needs, domestic violence or education.

“I see it as a random act of kindness, and I believe in good karma,” Mack said. “When you’re blessing people, you get those blessings back to you.”