On Feb. 23, people from all areas of central Pennsylvania have the opportunity to come together and support a good cause. The State College Alliance Church will be hosting a MobilePack event for Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization that aims to provide “nutritionally complete meals specifically formulated for malnourished children,” according to its website.
Chris Grant, an associate professor of biology at Juniata College, had previously volunteered at a similar event. Grant had recently been looking for a way to help those less fortunate, and after reconnecting with a friend who was connected with Feed My Starving Children, he learned about the organization’s MobilePack events, and began to plan an event for central Pa. The Feed My Starving Children organization has permanent sites in various areas, but those interested in getting involved with the organization can also organize MobilePack events, where food is brought to the location and repackaged.
The State College Alliance Church, Grant’s church, offered to host the event in Centre County.
Lead pastor Aaron Henning was excited when he heard about the opportunity for the event.
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“It feels like a really cool opportunity to be hands-on,” Henning said. “We talk a lot about mission and making impact, and so this is a very hands-on way to do that. We also talk a lot about trying to be a positive influence in our community, and (it’s) a great thing to host.”
Henning also hopes the event can raise awareness about the issue of childhood starvation.
“We want to take those issues seriously, and as a faith-based organization, we believe the love of Christ compels us to make an impact on our world, and we’re just excited to be able to do that with our community,” Henning said.
The church had recently done a large expansion project in hopes of connecting with the community and providing them with space to use, and the gymnasium could be the space where volunteers could pack the food.
Ed Babcock Jr. is a head elder at the church, and a professor in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State.
With special flooring, pallets of food coming in, and a forklift, “what most days of the week will be gymnasium will become a food distribution warehouse for the day,” Babcock said.
To host an event, they buy food, purchased in bulk, from the organization, and need to raise money to fund the purchase of the food. Volunteers, who can sign up individually or in groups for 2-hour shifts, will repackage the food into individual meals so that it can be sent to those in need.
The response for volunteers was “terrific,” Babcock said. The response, in fact, was so strong that the Feed My Starving Children organization granted them additional food to buy, and additional volunteer slots. The usual program works with 500 volunteers to pack 100,000 meals, but the State College event is allotted 130,000 meals and more than 600 volunteers.
Emily Girgis is the MobilePack Event Planner for Feed My Starving Children.
“These events bring together members of the community to pack meals for starving children around the world, an experience like no other,” Girgis said via email. “Some individuals who attend a MobilePack for the first time may not know what the event entails. By the end of one packing shift, when you learn about the amount of meals you just packed, and the amount of kids that will be fed, you realize just how big of an impact one person can make. Members of the community coming together for two hours of packing have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Girgis added that Grant and the church have been a pleasure to work with, and that they’re excited to see where the growth and where the event will go.
This event is the first one hosted in Centre County, Grant said, and the Feed My Starving Children organization offered to match their funding efforts. While the original goal of $11,119 has been met, they were still aiming to raise a total of $22,239. Now, with additional food to buy and additional volunteer slots to fill, they’re still continuing to welcome donation and volunteer efforts.
Local businesses in the community are also coming together to sponsor the event and raise awareness for it. These organizations include Changing Times Hair Designs, Fulton Bank, the YMCA and others, according to Babcock. The State College Chick-Fil-A, also a sponsor, will be doing a fundraising/promotional event on Feb. 19, Babcock said.
Though Grant helped begin the project, he stressed that the community itself has been “instrumental” in making the event happen.
From those within the Feed My Starving Children organization to those in State College, “there is just a large group of people that are making this a reality,” Grant said. “We would never have been able to do it without everyone’s help.”
For more information on how to volunteer or donate, visit www.scalliancechurch.com/foodpack.