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Full hearts fill empty stomachs

NL’s Holy Trinity exceeds goal in fight against hunger
Two-and-a-half-year-old Madelyn Driscoll proves that one is never too young to be involved in a good cause. Here, Madelyn is waiting for bags of rice and soy mix to be passed down the line to her station, where she will check to make sure the bag is sealed and hand it to the person packing them into boxes. (photo by Lori Lindner)

NORTH LIBERTY– If just 25¢ can buy a child one meal, imagine what $22,000 can do.
That’s how much North Liberty’s Holy Trinity Church members raised, with help from the entire community and 18 area business sponsors, to benefit Kids Against Hunger this year.
West High School senior Mareda Smith, daughter of Pastor Tim Smith and his wife Lisa, along with West High graduate Abby Heller, organized Holy Trinity’s event and led hundreds of congregation members and volunteers in a day-long packing session March 28.
Kids Against Hunger is an international food relief organization headquartered in Omaha. The nonprofit was established in 1999 with a mission to provide nutritious, vitamin-fortified soy and rice-based food to starving children in the United States and throughout the world. To achieve that mission, the organization set up more than 100 satellite packaging centers across the USA, and relies upon volunteers in dozens of locations each year to package the dry meals and prepare them for shipping.
In its third year at Holy Trinity, participants raised more than $22,000 and volunteers packed 87,684 meals to be shipped to hungry children across the globe. The annual event originated as a service project for Holy Trinity’s youth group led by Annika and Casey Hauan. In year one, they raised enough money to package 15,000 meals; it was so successful volunteers ran out of supplies. The second year, organizers set a goal of packing 50,000 meals. This year, a goal of 75,000 meals seemed attainable, and to do it, the church needed to raise $18,750.
Well before the event, Mareda said, contributors had pledged $18,000. With the additional money raised before March 28, Mareda and Abby were able to order enough supplies to pack 90,000 meals.
Gathering willing volunteers was almost as easy, Mareda said. It wasn’t just Holy Trinity members who came to feed the thousands; it was also fellow students from West High, University of Iowa student groups, people from area churches and friends and family members from all over.
“It is fun to see them come and be united in the same cause,” said Mareda. “It’s also fun to bring people to Holy Trinity to meet new people and do some outreach together.”
That’s the reason volunteer Sherry Hautekeete came all the way from the First Lutheran Church in Conroy to participate, as she did last year.
“We are a country church, and we’re big on feeding people,” said Sherry of her home church in Conroy. “We have a food bank in town, and raise a half-acre garden to help feed people in need.”
Sherry brought friends along, including Esinam Ziddah, an exchange student from Ghana.
“My dad is a pastor in Ghana, and he teaches us that we are supposed to help our community,” said Esinam, who has been in Iowa since August and will stay until June. “I just love coming here and doing this. Helping people is fun and you always make new friends.”
Mareda said with the support from the community and the goal to help alleviate hunger for children worldwide, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and the Kids Against Hunger sponsors and volunteers have been friends indeed.
Over 400 volunteers signed up online and many more showed up at the door the day of the event. Volunteers ranged in age from two years old to 82 years old, and every age in between.
“It’s really cool,” Mareda said. “People might hear ‘Kids Against Hunger’ and think it’s an event for kids, but the whole church community has been so supportive of our youth group. It’s just been so great to be a part of this event.”