Emcee Chad Leabo wanted volunteers in a Kansas City church lot to know why they were there, why they were packing sacks full of food.
So he weaved his way through the tables of volunteers and rattled off facts and figures from a three-page cheat sheet.
In Kansas and Missouri, there are hungry people living in urban centers, sparsely-populated rural counties and suburban communities. … In the 26-county area Harvesters serves, 127,190 children are food insecure. … Harvesters feeds over 95,000 children a year through a network of pantries.
With the hungry in mind, the lot outside St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City transformed into a warehouse for a few hours Saturday morning. Dozens of volunteers — many of whom had just finished a run where proceeds went to Harvesters’ food bank — lined tables and worked in assembly lines for the fourth annual De-Feet Hunger event sponsored by the United Methodist Churches of the Heartland District.
“Why are we here?” Leabo asked the crowd about 30 minutes in. “We are packing lunches!”
The hands of children and adults filled sacks with bottled water and tortillas, beans and rice, and other shelf-stable food. The bags will help fight hunger in the area, as well as feed people during disaster relief efforts that Harvesters responds to.
Saturday’s goal was to pack more than 5,000 lunches.
“It’s an effort for all of us to come together and raise awareness that we have hunger issues,” said Andrea Uhl, who co-chaired Saturday’s event with Jamie Kapke.
On Saturday, many runners stayed to pack lunches. Other people, including those who live in the neighborhood of St. James church, helped out.
“The woman from across the street came over and said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ ” said Julie Salmon, a member of the Harvesters’ board. “Now she’s out here helping.”
Teretha Moore volunteered last year and looked forward to coming back.
“It’s a need for the community,” said Moore. “For the homeless who don’t have enough to eat. I’ve been blessed and I want to make sure the underprivileged are blessed, too.”
De-Feet Hunger came about in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a way for people in Kansas City to make a difference.
“When you can do something really positive in the community, when you’re remembering something tragic that happened, is a good thing,” said Kapke, as she looked around at the more than 150 people volunteering. “I almost started to cry as I’m seeing my little girls packing the lunches and they are learning — learning what they can do to help their community.”
Dozens of young people got involved Saturday. Some taped boxes. Others worked the kids’ table, helping a few adults load the bags.
Nehya Ramsey, 13, broke down boxes that once held cans of food.
“It’s a good thing to help out people who are hungry,” Nehya said as she ripped apart a small box.
Nearby, Delaney Dunn, 10, pitched in any way she could. As she put it: “It helps people, that’s pretty much it. And it’s fun.”
It didn’t take long Saturday to fill dozens and dozens of boxes.
“Raise that hand if you feel good helping out today,” Leabo encouraged the crowd.
Hands punched upward throughout the St. James’ church lot. A few people hollered out.
Salmon said it’s easy to feel good seeing everyone working to help families, disaster volunteers and young people.
“I’m just reminded of the power of us,” Salmon said. “Of what we can do together. We can act in love to combat hate.”