In July 2013, Support Services for Adults changed its program to a volunteer service group model. The program is looking for opportunities to help in the community, such as shredding, recycling, sorting and more while teaching new skills to the adults who attend the program.
Christine Rutherford, Community Living’s Director of Development, attended a St. Peters Rotary Club meeting where the group helped package food for children and families in Northwest Haiti. Christine shared her experience with fellow staff who thought this would make a perfect volunteer opportunity for the Support Services for Adults participants.
Marilyn and Jerry Lantz, volunteers for Kids Against Hunger at the St. Peters satellite, are always looking for support from citizens, whether that is to pay for the ingredients, suggestions on where to send the food or volunteers to pack the food. “We always have an open door,” Jerry said. “To make this work, every aspect of support is important.”
In 2010, Marilyn and Jerry originally wanted to help bring hygiene products to communities in need. They then learned about Kids Against Hunger and pursued the food avenue, where they became a satellite in St. Peters. There are over 90 satellites in the United States and Canada. “What we bring to these less fortunate communities is food for nutritional value,” Jerry said. “It gives the children a balanced diet and keeps their immune system built to live a healthier life.”
Originally, Jerry’s interest was to start this satellite and help feed the poor. But, his interest was piqued when he started noticing this project is helping more than just the poor. “We (my wife and I) are a small link in providing food to the communities,” Jerry said. “And, through the years I’ve noticed the humanitarian side of things. We go to churches, schools or centers and everyone is coming together for the greater good — feeding the hungry. It’s a humbling experience.”
Not only do Marilyn and Jerry provide 600 families in Northwest Haiti with food as a supplement to their daily diet, but they also donate to local food pantries and organizations. “We can do this however we want and go wherever we want,” Marilyn said. Their Kids Against Hunger satellite is mobile, so when an organization volunteers they can bring the set up to them.
Once it was finalized that the Support Services for Adults program was going to volunteer, Marilyn and Jerry set up in a shared space at the Mahon and Lonning Centers in St. Charles. Participants from the Clever and Wilson Centers in Dardenne Prairie were invited to help as well. “This is so neat to watch,” Jerry said. “Seeing the joy in their faces makes this project worth it to us.”
The participants, with help from staff, had an assembly line process. The first station was where the vitamin powder, dried vegetables, rice and soy were poured into a bag, next the bag was weighed and sealed, and then a participant pounded the bags flat. Once 18 bags were flattened the bags were transferred into a box, and once the box had 36 bags it was sealed and ready for delivery.
“Box one!” After a box was filled with 36 bags, Marilyn would shout out the box number they completed. The participants would smile, cheer and clap. Once the celebration was over they would continue on with their job. They were able to finish five boxes in a three-hour period. “That’s enough meals to feed three children in one year,” Jerry said.
Having the participants help in the packaging of these five boxes is just the beginning of the journey. Now, Marilyn and Jerry will deliver these five boxes along with 595 other boxes. “We go into the community and see the same families every three months,” Jerry said. “We want to be involved and build relationships.”
And, not only are they building relationships in Haiti, but also around the community. “We are so happy we could come here and watch this,” Marilyn said. “We’ve been to lots of places, but this will be one place we’ll remember. Watching them do this with smiles makes this a worthy cause.”
Do the math
6 Meals per bag X 36 bags per Box = 216 Meals
216 Meals X 600 boxes = 129,600 Meals, feeding 600 families