Feed My Starving Children packs more than 600,000 meals
For three days last week, the calls rang out through the Perham Area Community Center's (PACC) gym.
"Table 10, box 27!"
"Table 16, box 25!"
From April 28-30, an estimated 5,000-6,000 volunteers helped to pack more than 600,000 meals for Haiti as part of Feed My Starving Children, which had been months in planning.
Students, family, co-workers, community organizations and church groups from throughout the region, including Detroit Lakes, Hawley, Battle Lake, New York Mills, Perham and many more helped to fill the PACC for the three days.
Ahren Grebner, off-site supervisor for Feed My Starving Children, a Twin Cities-based Christian nonproft, said he was overwhelmed by the region's support for the project.
"The community response has been so positive," he said. "For some people, this is their event of the year. This gets them on a spiritual high."
Grebner said that many volunteers thanked him over the course of the three days for coming to Perham.
"I heard a story of a little girl going home and telling people that she was helping to save kids in Haiti," Grebner said. "It's not every day that you hear stories like that."
According to Grebner, the food packed during the event would likely make it to Haiti by the end of the week.
Pastor Phil Holtan of Perham, who was one of the event's main organizers, said one of the most rewarding parts of the event was seeing the looks on kids' faces.
"This event goes from kids to kids," Holtan said. "Area kids help to make meals for kids down in Haiti. To see the joy on their faces when they understand that, it's so concrete."
Holtan said it was also enjoyable to watch high school students during the 'Highway 10 PACC-Off,' where area students competed against each other to pack the most meals in a shift. The winners were awarded with free lattes from the Wild Goose in Perham.
"The students just got really into it," Holtan said. "They were disappointed when they had to stop packing. That was great to see."
Tamara Langen of Perham, also one of the main organizers, said she was extremely happy with how the three days of packing went.
Langen said that more than $120,000 was raised for the program, most of which paid for the meals. Volunteers paid $50 per person to be able to pack.
"It was a really great turnout," she said. "Everyone's having fun, packing like crazy. There's just been a tremendous outpouring of support from this community, especially with everything that's been going on lately."
This year's total of 600,000 meals and $120,000 well surpasses totals from when the event was first held in Perham in 2009. Then, the community raised nearly $70,000 and packed more than 430,000 meals.
Holtan wasn't sure if the program would happen again next year. When it does, though, he's confident that the Perham community and surrounding region will heed the call once again.