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Volunteers pack meals to feed starving children around the world

Volunteers work in an assembly line to package nutrient-rich foodstuff for starving children worldwide Saturday afternoon at the High Plains Cultural Center in Killdeer. The event was put on by Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based nonprofit. (Press Photo by Andrew Wernette)

KILLDEER -- As he scanned the assembly lines of volunteers loading and sealing bags of foodstuffs from above in the High Plains Cultural Center, Pastor John Simonson of St. John’s Lutheran Church said he was amazed at the number of people who had come to dedicate their time to do good.

“I’ve had goosebumps for 12 hours straight,” Simonson said.

The packed meals, dubbed MannaPacks, are destined to feed malnourished youth in foreign countries under the eye of Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization that was leading the volunteer-supported event Friday and Saturday. People from as far as Dickinson and Grassy Butte came to be a part of the effort.

The organization depends on volunteers in various cities to pack specialized dry ingredients into bags, which are then sent to starving children around the world. The ingredients loaded into the packs are specially formulated to give malnourished children the most advantageous balance of nutrition.

St. John’s spearheaded the effort in bringing the organization to Killdeer, working alongside other community cosponsors to raise more than $21,000 over the year to pay for the food.

The event functioned in one-and-a-half-hour shifts that began Friday evening and went on into Saturday, with the ultimate goal of packaging 100,000 meals.

“We’re on our way,” Simonson said on Saturday afternoon. “We’re doing very good.”

He described the excitement floating in the atmosphere as “contagious.” It all had turned into a sort of competition, he said, with different packaging teams trying to pack more meals in the time allotted than the others.

He added that many volunteers had chosen to work multiple shifts out of pure enjoyment.

“They’re wanting to keep going and doing more,” Simonson said. “I’m wonderfully surprised about all of this.”

Staff from Feed My Starving Children were also present to help keep the pace smooth.

Daniel Belich, a senior event supervisor, echoed Simonson in that the output was promising.

“We’re at about 59,000 meals packed already,” Belich said in the afternoon.

He estimated the total amount of food being handled that day to come to around 15,000 pounds.

Belich said the goal for the nonprofit this year is to pack 270 million meals.

“This year we’ll do about 250 of these packing events around the country,” he said

He explained that the organization is in touch with different ministries around the globe that aids it in its task.

“We’ve developed relations with them and send food to them and they distribute it locally,” Belich said.

He said it wasn’t known to which countries the packs being assembled at the event would be shipped, but that the organization would follow up with Simonson when a decision was made and the meals sent off from a warehouse.

One of the volunteers was Killdeer resident Stephanie Harderson, who was filling bins of grain that went to the work stations.

“I think we’ve got a lot of great volunteers,” she said.

Harderson, who said her two children were also participating in the event, said she thought it was a good experience for the kids as far as “broadening horizons” to a world in which many still go about hungry.

“I think it’s been great for the youth,” she said.

Andrew Wernette

Wernette came to The Dickinson Press from his home state of Michigan in April 2015 as reporter for the newspaper's energy, political, crime, courts and cops beats. Before The Press, Wernette worked at his university's newspaper as a section editor, as well as interned at a local county paper as a reporter. Outside of work, he enjoys reading, writing, cooking, taking a stroll and planning his next world travel adventure.

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