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‘Pack Friday’ gathers aid for the Philippines

Updated: 2013-11-30T04:30:21Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

We all know the day after Thanksgiving is for racing to the malls and shopping till we drop.

But more than 200 adults and young people shunned “Black Friday” and opted for “Pack Friday” — spending time packaging food to be shipped to typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines.

“It seems like a better option than going shopping all day,” said Brett Posten, who went with his wife, two children and about 30 other people connected to St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School. “I think it’s just a lot better to give on a day when everything is about consumption. It’s a good reminder to give back.”

Posten said his family has participated in other events sponsored by Something to Eat, a crisis response meal-packaging initiative started in 2009 by Youthfront, a metro Kansas City Christian youth ministry. He said each packaging event has grown since the first one, devoted to disaster relief in Haiti.

The organization has galvanized thousands of volunteers, mostly teenagers, and shipped about 2 million meals since the program began.

People were clustered around tables at a Kansas City, Kan., warehouse Friday afternoon, quickly filling bags with rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and vitamins. Each bag contained a meal that can be boiled to feed six people. The cost: $1.50, paid for through donations, including from those who packed the meals Friday. The meal packages can be safely stored for more than two years.

Posten’s 12-year-old daughter Elsa Jane said she didn’t mind volunteering on her day off from school.

“I was excited and looked forward to it,” she said, adding that her family and friends had a fun competition going to see who could pack the most bags. “You just know you’re helping so many people, and for this to be the meal that they get, it’s good to know you’re providing it.”

Mandy Hill came Friday with her husband, two children and some friends from their church, Redemption Church in Olathe. While her two children have participated in Youthfront’s camps every summer, she said Friday’s event was the first time they’ve joined the meal-packaging effort.

“It’s quite a well-oiled machine,” she said of the assembly line setup.

Something to Eat partners with Food for the Hungry, one of the world’s largest relief agencies. Rather than providing food right after a disaster, Something to Eat is there for the second and third waves of need, said Austin Averill, director of the program. The meals packaged Friday will be shipped out when Food for the Hungry determines it can do the most good in the Philippines, he said.

Averill said he was gratified by the turnout — the organization had just decided a week ago that Black Friday might make an ideal volunteering day. He estimated about 20,000 to 25,000 bags would be filled in just the one afternoon.

“It has been awesome to see Kansas City respond,” he said.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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