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Church and community volunteers put together meals as part of Stop Hunger Now's Operation Sharehouse
An effort to feed the world's hungry has drawn hundreds of volunteers in King George over the past few years, including members of Fletcher's Chapel United Methodist Church.
Hanna Brooks adds soy to a dehydrated meal while Paula Berry holds the package as part of the Stop Hunger Now effort in King George in 2010.
By CATHY DYSON
Volunteers from King George County churches and community groups will gather Sunday to express gratitude for all they have.
On the weekend before Thanksgiving--when many people eat to the point of misery--the group will spend an afternoon trying to make life better for those who don't have as much.
As many as 150 volunteers are expected to show up at the King George County YMCA to assemble almost 40,000 meals as part of Stop Hunger Now.
The international food-relief program is based in Raleigh, N.C., and provides volunteers with the supplies needed to assembly meal packets.
The packages contain rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix with 21 vitamins and minerals.
Each meal costs only 25 cents, and the packages last up to five years.
Volunteers for the organization put together 21.3 million meals in 2011 alone. The life-saving packets have been distributed to 76 countries.
The King George group is set to break its own assembly record. This year, volunteers collected almost $10,000, enough to purchase 40,000 meals.
That's 16 times more than in 2007, when the King George program began.
Organizer Lori Deem has set her sights on even greater accomplishments.
"I hope to make this a huge community event" that involves school, college and community groups from across the region.
"As a service project, it's easy, fun and best of all, you don't have to get shots to go overseas," Deem said.
Fletcher's Chapel United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Elfie Finn-McKenzie have led the effort. The pastor said church members wanted to get away from the "buy-buy-buy" mentality that dominates the holidays and develop a more meaningful tradition.
She said she also liked Stop Hunger Now because it's a simple and direct way to help those in need.
When organizations, such as the King George group, raise a minimum of $2,500, Stop Hunger Now brings bags of the main ingredients to their churches or civil halls.
The relief program also provides gloves and hair nets, bags and funnels, stacking charts and electric bag sealers. There's also a gong that gets struck for every 1,000 meals the volunteers bag.
Other groups in the region that have packed meals for Stop Hunger Now in the past include Wright's Chapel United Methodist Church in Caroline County; Salem Baptist Church and SimVentions, a high-tech firm, in Spotsylvania County; Fredericksburg United Methodist Church in the city; and Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford County.
The King George group will start setting up tables at the YMCA at noon. Packaging begins at 2 p.m. and should last up to 2 hours, Deem said.
Money and volunteers are always appreciated, she said. "You never turn them down."
Any donations not used Sunday will be carried over to next year, Deem said. Donations can be sent to Fletcher's Chapel UMC, 8330 Fletcher's Chapel Road, King George, Va., 22485.stophungernow.org
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425