Volunteers feeling good by providing food for impoverished nations

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LENOX -- Before lunchtime on Saturday, Reggie Cooper did his part in helping to prepare meals for 10,000 families.

Cooper was among 45 volunteers from Trinity Episcopal Church who spent the morning helping the poor and hungry in Haiti and Sudan. They filled large Zip-lock style bags with soy grain, vitamin seasoning, rice grains and freeze-dried vegetables that will be shipped to the Caribbean and African nations.

By pouring hot water with the ingredients, the modest meal is enough to feed an impoverished family of six.

Cooper was among volunteers who refused to leave the church until there were 10,000 bags that could be stocked on a truck and shipped to those in need.

"I think we would have 25,000 if they had the supplies for it," the 45-year-old Pittsfield resident said. "It was a great group of volunteers ready to go and it really feels good to put in the time."

"Instead of sitting around reading the paper and getting ready to start the day we've made a difference with 60,000 people."

The meals were paid for by Trinity Episcopal Church, but supplies and directions were organized by the international hunger relief program, Stop Hunger Now. The program has provided 105 million meals by developing a 25 cent meal that can be easily stored, shelved for two years and transported quickly.

Trinity Episcopal Church spent $2,500 in church funds to pay for the ingredients.

Lenox resident Gail Street co-organized the event and was one of the many who enthusiastically embraced the cause.

"In the United States we are used to having plenty," Street said. "Here I go again, but we have so much here and if we look beyond ourselves we can see people in great need."

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Their work was celebrated by the sound of a gong that signified that 1,000 bags of food had been made. Enthusiastic clapping followed.

Each volunteer was separated into stations that were organized around seasoning and vitamins. The other stations added soy, rice and dried vegetables into the bags.

The bags were weighed, and then boxes of the food was taken to a truck.

"It seemed daunting when it first started, but I must say there were a lot of us and we were working hard," said co-chair Virgina Giddens.

The work started slowly with the first 1,000 bags completed in about 25 minutes. Then everything fell into place.

"We were doing 1,000 meals every five minutes," Cooper said.

The volunteers gathered at 9 a.m. and within 90 minutes they had reached their goal.

"We had a tremendous amount of support," Street said. "We didn't know what to expect at first but it all fell into place."

To reach John Sakata:

jsakata@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6240.

On Twitter: @jsakata


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