Volunteers worked Friday and Saturday in Conway, packing 272,160 mobile meals to be sent to Swaziland, Africa to feed the hungry.
Austin and Ashton Samuelson, owners of the Conway restaurant Pitza 42, organized the event in coordination with other agencies, as well as Feed My Starving Children. Referring to the event as MobilePack 2013, volunteers, worked 200 per shift to accomplish the goal, said Ashton Samuelson.
"We had 1,500 spots and we filled them up in four days," she added. Helping with the packing Friday, Mrs. Samuelson was wearing a hair net and a T-shirt with the saying "Turn Hunger into Hope" on the back. She worked side by side with volunteers measuring ingredients and sealing small plastic bags called "Manna Packs." Inside each, volunteers placed a formula consisting of rice, dehydrated vegetables, soy nuggets and vitamins.
Asked about the recruitment of the many volunteers, she said, it was "actually pretty easy."
"We just went on Facebook, Twitter and email and said what we needed and the help started pouring in from everywhere," she added, listing the names of several organizations, schools and businesses who provided a helping hand. In addition to packing, some of the organizations also raised money that paid for some of the food.
Kristin Brinson and Stephanie Shaffelt of a Louisiana based organization, Children’s Cup, were among groups the non-profit groups at the event. Brinson shared a story that inspired many. She was in Africa in 2008, she said, and visited the hut of a teacher who volunteers at one of the organization’s care points.
"Three children poked their heads in the door and asked, in their language, if she had any bread or food of any kind," Brinson said. The teacher sent the children away empty handed. When they left, Brinson said she learned the children hadn’t eaten in three days. She opened up her pocketbook that day, she said, and gave money to buy food for those hungry children.
"It was life changing for me," she added.
An ongoing project, for every meal that is sold at Pitza 42, the Samuelson family gives, 24 cents to the Feed My Starving Children. One-half of the world, Mrs. Samuelson said, lives on less than $2 per day.
While the weekend load of food is on its way, the family extends an invitation to those who did not participate to get involved, along with them, in a common goal to stomp out hunger around the world.