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Aldersgate UMC packs 36,000 meals to Stop Hunger Now in 2015

Bil Bowden

No small potatoes here. Last week, a crowd of 180 parishioners and volunteers at Aldersgate United Methodist Church packaged 36,000 meals to ship overseas last week.  In just two hours.

Stop Hunger Now, a non-profit organization headquartered in North Carolina dedicated to feeding the hungry in developing countries, organized the event and AUMC provided the volunteers. Tables were lined up nearly the entire length of the church Fellowship Hall and the volunteers, ages eight to 90, started filing in long before the 6 p.m. start time.

Last year was the first project, and 120 people worked over two nights to pack the boxes with 30,000 meals. This year, there wasn't much promotion and 180 people still showed up for one night. Apparently, the word got around.

From the web site-- Stop Hunger Now has been fulfilling its commitment to end hunger since 1998.  Every year, with the help of our hands-on volunteers, we provide millions of nutritious meals and other life-saving aid to children and families all over the world.

The evening was not an inexpensive one for the church. Each bag of rice, vitamins, soy mixture and dehydrated vegetables costs 29 cents, costing the church about $10,000. Because of the cost, AUMC might miss next year. Parishioners offered up additional money for Stop Hunger Now to come in, and money is running low.

"We might have to skip a year," says Layne Miller, the church staffer who organized the event. "Parishioners have already given above and beyond their usual offering so Stop Hunger Now could come in. Unless we find more money, we'll have to do this again in 2017."

The oldest packers were 90 years old and stood the entire time to fill individual bags. Each bag is enough for six meals. Youngsters were used as runners to quickly carry the filled bags to sealers and then to box packers.  Kids younger than eight were watched over by babysitters in daycare rooms.

"Old people, young people, it doesn't matter," says Miller. "We put on the hairnets, and it's a great equalizer."

More than 30 students from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of York College and a few Boy Scouts and their families rounded out the total packers.

"We won't know where all the food is going until after it's delivered," says Miller. "It's a big boost for morale here. This can be a great community project for other groups, and the United Methodist Church has always been supportive of Stop Hunger Now."

Aside from this project, AUMC works with Helping Hands for the Homeless in York for a food run six times a year.

It's a lot of work-- and money-- for the church.  But it's worth it, says Miller. "We do it to reach beyond ourselves to serve the least, the last and the lost."