Packing 40,000 meals for Haiti with love at Grace Community

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By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer

Maria Lara and her son Santiago drove all the way from Davie to Camino Real in Boca to lend a hand at Grace Community Church’s recent Meal Packing Event on Jan. 12.

“I saw the event on Facebook and said to myself, ‘They can always use extra help.’ This is our first time at the event and the church. Everyone was very welcoming. They gave us a T-shirt, [coffee and donuts], and we were ready to get started. It was a great experience!” enthused Maria Lara.

This was the church’s 4th annual Meal Packing Event, held every January to kick off the New Year. It was the third meal packing held outside under an event tent, a previous event was held indoors. The outdoor location and street-side event sign drew in friends and neighbors from the community to join with church members on the project.

Some 300 people were expected at the ‘9 a.m.-to-finish’ effort to assemble and pack Rice & Veggie pouches to be distributed by Lifeline Christian Mission. The meals are fortified with 20 vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of protein. Just add water.

“They’re helping us pack 40,137 meals today. Lots of hands make light work. They’re helping us continue to serve those in need,” said Youth Pastor Derek Gillespie, who was on-scene, with Pastor Jason Whitener stopping by to greet and thank volunteers between preaching on “love” at Sunday morning services.

By 10:30 a.m. one pallet of 14,000 meals had been packed. As of 11:25 a.m. the count was updated to over 30,000 meals.

“We’re entering the last little bit. We paid for 40,000 meals. Representatives from Lifeline drove down from Ohio,” added Gillespie.

Lifeline is a nonprofit based out of Westerville, Ohio, with a mission of sharing the love of Jesus around the globe.

It was founded by Bob and Gretchen DeVoe in 1980, starting with a Christian school and church in Grand Goave, Haiti. Doors later opened in Honduras. Lifeline partnered with and sponsored house churches in Cuba in 2004. In 2005, they developed a Bible institute and sports ministries in El Salvador.

The outreach concluded around noon, with all 40,000 meals packed, Communications & Young Adult Coordinator Allie Ward said.

A decade-long church member Linda Prentice got a lesson from Matt Collins in how to seal filled bags [using a tabletop machine similar to a deluxe flatiron]. At a second table, Mason, 5, was happily helping out, assisted by Samuel, 36. At another table, Ella, 6, had mastered how to scoop protein powder into the meal bags her group was preparing.

Each table worked together as a team, forming an assembly line. The first member held open an empty Rice & Veggie bag under a large funnel, with each member contributing an item: a spoonful of freeze-dried veggies, a spoonful of yellow protein powder, a large

scoop of grains (resembling Grape-Nuts cereal), a large scoop of rice. The filled bag was then weighed by a sixth team member, standing ready to add extra rice if needed to equal the target weight of 390 to 395 grams. A seventh team member sealed the bags. Meal bags were eventually boxed up and loaded onto a truck.

“We actually tasted one of the meals last year,” said a volunteer. “You boil the bag and serve it. It’s actually good, very flavorful. They get everything they need [in the meal].”

Grace Community Church is located at 600 W. Camino Real. 561-395-2811, www.graceboca.org.