Perham ready for its miracle next week
By Ron Anderson
Feed My Starving Children
The organizing committee for Feed My Starving Children each week has more good news to tell. Usually, this news divides quite nicely into two main theses: "miracles-big and small" and "it's about our children".
This week, the news is particularly good!
Last Thursday, the committee made a commitment to order enough food to package 400,000 meals. They did this even though they were a couple thousand dollars short of the full $68,000 needed. Sunday, the Degree of Honor team, one of the 58 teams that will package meals next week, announced that its fundraising event produced $3,200, putting the program very close to its goal. The fundraiser succeeded beyond imagination even though it was scheduled on the night of last week's blizzard. That became the week's "little miracle" which leads to the big miracle-packaging 400,000 meals. To put this into perspective, that is enough food to provide 135,000 starving children three meals for a day. It is enough food to provide three meals each day for more than 330 children for an entire year. In order to package this many meals, 3,000 local citizens will "pack at the PACC" for two days- another little miracle in Perham.
Project chairperson, Pr. Phil Holtan, is enthusiastic. These will be exciting days. Stop by the PACC and feel the energy. The teams are so diverse and enthusiastic. This is a great and pleasant surprise. Times are tough, but the folks responded so generously. This giving, positive, caring community- that's the real miracle here.
Last week's "little miracle" reminded us of Jesus' feeding the five thousand with a few fish and loaves of bread brought by a child. Our students brought in small containers filled with quarters that replace the M&M's that were inside these plastic tubes. Dean Simpson, appropriately a grocer, donated these tubes (and organized a team for the packing process). The quarters added up to more than $4,000 and Dean's investment was returned almost five-fold.
It's a bit of a miracle that Feed My Starving Children got started here at all. Phil Holtan tells a story. More than a year ago, a group of Perham's teens attended a youth gathering that featured this program. Inspired, Karlie Miller began to think about doing a local hunger project. Later, as Miss Perham, she made Feed My Starving Children her platform project. Several youth from Calvary and others from Pr. Rod Turnquist's United Methodist Church of Richville went to the Cities to package FMSC food. They were inspired. Karlie, Phil and Rod formulated a plan to bring the operation here for a weekend. Phil went to his church council seeking permission to get going on a 100,000 meal effort at a cost of $17,000. They told him it was a great idea but think bigger- this is Perham. He said Rod took their plan to the Perham Ministerial group where they found unanimous, enthusiastic support for the project- and "ecumenical miracle" in which all local churches are working together for a common cause. The Rotary group responded with a gift of $6,000 to get the program off the ground.
Pr. Holtan began to recruit community members for his committee. He and a few Rotarians traveled to Guatemala to set up surgery rooms for Dr. Rand Stolee, who volunteers his skills there every year. From that group, he enlisted the help of Mike Cummings to lead the logistics and facilities part of the project. Denise Tappe agreed to get local clubs and organizations to support FMSC. He turned to Tamera Langen and Ron Anderson to help with publicity, went to Paul and Kjersten Hunt to lead community fundraising. He secured Missy Graham to coordinate the program effort. By mid-January, the group knew that this was going to happen- and it was going to be big.
Pastor Phil says of this experience, "I've been organizing community-wide projects for thirty years. I've never had a project go so well. The good news is that people pitch in and help. In a world accustomed to bad news, this is good news. Everyone says 'yes' when they are asked to help- no one says 'no'.
Some of the committee members began to go into churches to give "temple talks" to explain the project. "The response was amazing," said Ron Anderson. "The people were so attentive, so caring, so eager to help. Soon the congregations were taking special offerings, sponsoring fundraisers and organizing teams. For all of us, this last month had been like Christmas each day, with another gift given, another team organized, another volunteer wanting to help." And so we have another "little miracle."
Another theme growing out of the FMSC is the outpouring of love from our community to its children and the starving children. In many ways it's a miracle worked by our community's young for desperate children, barely hanging to life- children that they care about but will never meet. It's also the adults who want our children to have the experience of reaching out to those who are helpless and need help.
Denise Tappe and Paulette Stanislowski agree that this is an opportunity for kids to learn public service.
"Young people need to realize that they can do this and that they have an obligation to reach out to others," Denise commented. Paulette was reminded of a project that youth in Fargo organized which filled the floor of the Fargodome with food. Criticism poured into the local paper in the form of a Letter to the Editor, saying that this would not end poverty and was only a temporary fix. The kids wrote back, reporting that they had organized this, did the planning, picked up the food, publicized it and distributed the food. They said that they had leaned much about community service and organizing. She said, "I wanted no less for our kids in Perham-to be involved in a project like this."
There we have it- an entire community, motivated by compassion for starving children, rolls up its sleeves and goes to work. The celebration starts on Friday when all our students will package food; kids working to help kids.
On Saturday, some 58 teams of fifteen to twenty people will finish the inspiring task of packaging 400,000 meals, By the time it's finished, some 3,000 of our faithful citizens will have cooperated to help the helpless.
As Pr. Phil was told by his council, "This is Perham. We can do more."