Feeding the children

In Fort Dodge, more than 500 volunteers help pack 190,000 meals for starving kids

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Claire Jeong, 7, of Fort Dodge, carefully holds a bag as soy protein is placed into it during the MobilePack event Saturday at Community Christian School. Jeong went door to door, playing her violin, raising money for the event.

Claire Jeong wanted to help raise money for an effort to pack meals for starving children all across the world.

However, the 7-year-old was a little shy about approaching people and asking for donations, according to her mother, Sanghee Rhee, of Fort Dodge.

Fortunately, the family came up with a unique solution.

“So we came up with this idea that, ‘I’ll play my violin for this good cause,'” Rhee said.

Both this year and last, Jeong went door to door in Fort Dodge, playing her violin for donations for a Mobilepack fundraiser, which culminated Saturday with volunteers throughout the day packing 190,000 meals that will be given to starving children worldwide.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Grace Casciato, 12, right, and her sister, Abigail Casciato, 10, both of Fort Dodge, work the assembly line packing bags of food for starving children.

“I wanted to help,” Jeong said.

Thanks to her fundraising efforts, Jeong raised about $600 of more than $24,000 which was needed to get the effort off the ground.

Jeong’s father, Jae Jeong, who works at CJBio America, said his daughter didn’t just go door to door.

“She played violin at church,” Jae Jeong said. “And she came to my company and she played violin, and my company donated.”

Claire Jeong and her family were three of 500 volunteers who packed the gym at Community Christian School to form mini assembly lines, putting the food into bags which were then loaded into boxes that will be sent to a yet-to-be-determined country to help feed children who need it.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Ayden Johanson, 12, of Fort Dodge, makes sure there’s enough rice in a package that will be sent to a starving child somewhere in the world. Johanson was participating in the Feed My Starving Children MobilePack event Saturday.

Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit Christian organization, coordinates the effort.

This is the third year of the event, according to Emily Thompson, a member of the local planning committee in Fort Dodge.

She said the community is very generous in supporting the program.

“At the beginning of the project we stare at these numbers: $24,000, 500 people,” she said. “And every year we wonder, ‘How are we ever going to do this?’ And Fort Dodge just astounds us with their generosity.”

Businesses, church groups and individuals all came together to help pack the meals.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Dylan Meyer, 10, of Manson, left, prepares to seal a bag that Gary Jorgensen, of Moorland, is holding during the MobilePack event at Community Christian School Saturday.

Some groups came up with chants they shouted after they packed enough meals to fill a box. Others wore shirts that represented their teams.

People from 5 years old to senior citizens filled bags, weighed and sealed them, packed the boxes, made the labels and then loaded the boxes onto a cart that will eventually be loaded onto a truck, beginning the food’s journey to its final destination.

Thompson said last year’s food was sent to both North Korea and Mexico.

Any extra money raised by the fundraiser will go to three ministries in Fort Dodge: The Salvation Army, the Beacon of Hope men’s shelter and the Lord’s Cupboard food pantry.

For volunteer Linda Ellsbury, of Fort Dodge, seeing the effort to make sure children across the world are fed is personal.

She has 11 adopted children, 10 of whom were adopted from overseas.

“And they’ve experienced extreme hunger,” Ellsbury said. “One of my grandchildren slept with a bowl and a spoon for six months. One would wrap his arm around the bowl, afraid someone else would take it.”

One of her granddaughters only weighed 12 pounds at 3 years of age.

“So I have stared starvation in the face,” she said. “It’s changed my life. So anytime I get an opportunity to do something like this, I’m all for it. Not to mention the fact, as a Christian, it’s what we’re supposed to do — love others.”

Chelsey Weber, another member of the planning committee, said everybody involved loves participating.

“The biggest thing that I’ve gotten from today is, I’ve noticed just the enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s very contagious from everybody who’s here, because so many people have done it before. It’s pretty humbling to watch.”