Monday, November 23, 2009

'Pack-a-thon' aids Guatemalan kids

Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati.Com » Local news
Last Updated: 6:46 am | Saturday, November 21, 2009

By Mark Curnutte • • November 21, 2009
Article can be found online here.

BLUE ASH - Working two-hour shifts in teams, more than 600 volunteers Saturday assembled 200,000 meals for starving children in famine-stricken Guatemala.

From ages 3 to 85, the volunteers packed a high-protein mix of rice, dried vegetables and soy protein - one scoop at a time - through funnels and into plastic bags. They were boxed and stamped with a yellow sticker reading "Packed in Cincinnati, Ohio USA by volunteers who care." The next step is shipment by the organization Kids Against Hunger to the Central American nation.

• Photos: Pack-a-Thon

Entire families, corporate volunteers and nurses with international human relief experience were among those who worked the assembly tables in a former grocery store on Hunt Road in what organizers billed as a "pack-a-thon."

Devin Robinson, 47, a nurse at Cincinnati Children's from Burlington, scooped soy during a morning shift.

She came alone and wanted to experience the food end of humanitarian relief. She spent two weeks in 2008 working in a clinic and teaching first aid in schools in the South American nation of Peru.

"I wanted to see this and see if there was a way to make a connection," said Robinson, who plans to go back to Peru next summer with Project C.U.R.E.

Organizers hung a white board on a hook in the front of the space after a morning shift. In marker, it read 42,768 meals - the number packed in two hours.

Kids Against Hunger is a part of the Liberty Township-based A Child's Hope International, founded in May 2008. Lawrence Bergeron, former lead pastor at Mason's Hope Church, is its executive director.

"Our whole focus is the 'least of these,'" said Bergeron, who spent the day leading an information session for incoming volunteers in one corner of the building before they would go on the line. Then he'd announce a shift change over a bullhorn.

Volunteers washed their hands with waterless sanitizer and slipped on aprons, rubber gloves and hairnets. Packed boxes were sealed and stacked on wooden pallets. In the back, volunteers poured rice and other ingredients into large plastic containers that were moved to tables for volunteers to scoop.

The group has shipped its food packets to Appalachia, overseas and locally through the Freestore Foodbank. Organizers and a banner hanging in the former store - the Kroger Co. handed Bergeron the keys to the building and pays for all utilities and necessary upgrades - reminds people of their ability to make a difference: One volunteer working two hours can pack enough food to feed a child for one year.

"You could use a machine for this, but you would lose the human touch," Bergeron said. "It's great to see the community coming together, all faiths, all ages."

Keith and Lecia Holley of Loveland brought their three children - daughter, Karlin, 11, and sons, Ethan and Nolan, 8 and 6 - to work a shift as a family. They took their turns scooping ingredients into the bags, patting them flat by hand and packing them into boxes.

"It's a great family ministry," Keith Holley, 43, said. "It's a hands-on way to help the less fortunate."

Less fortunate, indeed: 52 percent of Guatemala's 13.3 million people live in poverty, according to the Latin America Herald Tribune. A government study released in February reported that 45.6 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from chronic malnutrition and that their physical growth falls below the average established by the World Health Organization.

Billie Kimbrough, an executive with the Kroger, volunteered Saturday with a co-worker.

"It's a really neat process," Kimbrough said of her first-time experience with Kids against Hunger. "When I see the tapes (in the orientation) ... No person should go hungry."

More information:
To learn more about A Child's Hope International and its Kids Against Hunger program, go to or call 513-515-2611.

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