Jenna Seamons had her hands full on Saturday.
The nine-year-old was busy taking baskets full of plastic bags from one table to another in the fellowship hall at Theresa Baptist Church. Each bag was filled with a mixture of rice, soy and minerals, all of it dehydrated.
Seamons was part of a large effort among churches in Person County to pack 60,000 meals in the day.
The meal-packing event supports Rise Against Hunger, a Raleigh-based non-governmental agency which warehouses the packed bags of food and ships them around the world to places where hunger is a evident.
Wanda Williams, one the organizers, said the event serves as more than just a meal-packing event to quench hunger.
“It’s a great event to bring people together whether it is bridging an age gap or getting to know people you didn’t know,” Williams said. She recounted the story of one woman who was the only member of her church participating. “She told me she didn’t recognize a single person when she walked in. She didn’t know any of the people in the group she worked with, but she got to know them and she just had a great time,” Williams said. “It’s a wonderful time of fellowship.
The event is an annual effort that has been underway for several years in Person County. The last three years, however, have seen a significant surge in participation as organizers seek to involve church groups. Working through PUMP, Person United Methodist Parish, an umbrella organization that brings Methodist churches in the county together, the number of churches taking part grew considerably. Organizers also started reaching out to other churches in the area and a handful of Baptist churches have responded and joined in the effort. Over the last three years, volunteers have bagged 193,000 meals through this collaborative effort.
There were 17 churches involved in the program and several individuals from other churches that did not have a formal presence at event. Participating churches include Clement Baptist, Olive Branch Baptist, Theresa Baptist, and Methodist churches including Allensville, Helena, Longhurst, Mt. Tirzah, Mt. Zion, New Brook, Oak Grove, Trinity, Warren’s Grove, Salem, Long Memorial, Concord, Grace Cavel and Lea’s Chapel. Between them, the churches raised just over $19,000 to pay for the materials used in Saturday’s event.
Williams says event will take place again next year and she says participation isn’t limited to churches. “We would love for other people to join us. It can be other organizations, individuals or civic clubs,” Williams said.