Hundreds of people from the Minot region will be helping to combat worldwide hunger when they step up to food-packaging stations in the North Dakota State Fair Center Nov. 23.
Feed My Starving Children is returning to Minot to hold an event even larger than the November 2010 project that involved more than 30 churches from several denominations across northwestern North Dakota. Volunteers had prepared more than 300,000 meals to go to 60 countries.
This year, organizers Jim and Verla Rostad and the Rev. Gerald Roise hope to recruit more than 2,000 packers and prepare at least 500,000 packages. They are asking teams of eight to register by Tuesday so that a count is available to order adequate supplies.
Thanks to generous donors, youth teams now can sign up to participate at no cost. Typically, each team donates $400 to cover costs of the food, supplies and shipping associated with their packing. The $400 feeds a family of five for a year.
The planning board is waiving the $400 donation for additional youth teams, ages third grade and up, because of gifts provided by those who are unable to participate physically but wanted to support the project.
The project has funding to provide the food to 68 teams of eight, or 544 volunteers, for packaging, Verla Rostad said. Some adults are permitted on the youth teams because there must be one adult for every three to five students, depending on grade level. The ratio is one-to-one for children from kindergarten through second grade.
Teams work two-hour shifts, which begin at 9 a.m. and are scheduled at this time to run into the evening. Rostad said there is room for 256 eight-member packing teams.
“We need packers primarily, but if they need to be seated, we can also use them for other tasks,” Roise said.
People not on packing teams can help with registration, package labeling and assembling cardboard boxes.
Volunteers from Minot Air Force Base will be setting up for the event Nov. 22. Members of sports teams from Minot State University will be assisting on Nov. 23 to keep food supplies flowing to the packaging stations. Students at Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center also will be involved.
Volunteers have signed up from Bottineau to Williston, with some volunteers coming from as far away as Sidney, Mont., and Steele.
“When you look at the magnitude of it, God really wants this to happen,” Rostad said, noting how well the many details are coming together.
Roise said God’s hand was apparent in the 2010 event, which came together successfully despite the community’s inexperience with the project and the need to regroup in the final weeks leading up to the event when the primary organizer became ill. The late Kenneth Hegle had spearheaded the 2010 project, helping to bring it to Minot.
Roise said the goals of organizers haven’t changed much since 2010. They still aim for a multi-generational and family event that brings churches of all faiths together to provide a Christian witness, he said.
There is an additional goal this year to involve a broader spectrum of the community, he said. Invitations have gone out to youth clubs, service organizations, schools and other groups.
“This is a Christian organization, but it’s not an exclusive club, ” Rostad said. “Anybody who has compassion for needy people in the world is welcome to come.”
Past participants reported the 2010 event was not only enjoyable but rewarding and fulfilling for them. Rostad called it a rare opportunity to engage in an activity that you know will make a difference.
Feed My Starving Children is a national nonprofit formed in 1987. It now delivers to 70 countries, working with clinics, schools and orphanages to ensure that food is distributed to intended recipients. The organization reports 92 percent of donations go directly toward the food program, with 8 percent to administration, overhead and fund-raising.
In the past three years, the organization has expanded from four to seven permanent packing sites and has added dozens of off-site MobilePack events, such as the one in Minot. Additional packaging events are scheduled in December in Fargo and April in Grand Forks.
Feed My Starving Children sends a few advisers to the mobile sites, along with packaging equipment and large trailers loaded with dried rice, vegetables and minerals specifically formulated for malnourished children.
“The food has been scientifically developed so it is nutritionally formulated to fight the effects of starvation and the medical conditions that precede death,” Rostad said.
People also can follow the project at on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/FeedMyStarvingChildrenEventInMinotND2013).