Motivated by the most noble of causes, 1,000 of Darien's finest volunteers came out in force to give help where it's needed.
For the fifth year in a row, the Feed My Starving Children MobilePack event combined enthusiasm and energy with tons of food in order to get sustenance where it's needed most. The Minnesota-based nonprofit brought the fixings for more than 200,000 Manna Packs of soy, rice, vegetables and vitamins, which residents assembled in a two-day event at Middlesex Middle School.
"The churches of Darien work together to plan and host this event," Stella Clarke, team coordinator for the event, said. "We pray for the event, we raise funds, we plan for all the support for the event."
Working in six shifts, volunteers by the hundreds sat for an orientation session before devoting several concentrated hours to measuring combinations of food into plastic bags, which were then sealed, packed and prepared for shipment to places around the world.
In 2012, more than 240,000 packs were put together and sent to Ghana and El Salvador, where they provided 657 starving children one meal a day for a year.
"We do hundreds of these events around the country," said Nikki Larson, a MobilePack supervisor, who, along with two coworkers came East to help oversee the work.
"We are a Christian organization, but you don't have to be a Christian to pack our food, or to distribute our food," she said.
"Darien is awesome," Larson said. "To be part of a five-year tradition and to join the ranks of the large number of Darien volunteers is a huge honor."
She told one group during orientation that the number of daily deaths in the world due to starvation has made a significant drop, from 18,000 to 6,200.
"That's a large drop, and if you've done this before, you've been part of that number decreasing," she said.
"It just makes me feel good to help people in need, kids in need," said Rowan Kennedy, 11, who came with her mom and sister, Aidan.
"It makes me feel good," said Aidan, 8.
"I think it's important, especially living in this area, for them to understand there are people who go to bed hungry every night," said their mom, Leah Kennedy.
"Not everybody's as fortunate as us," she said. "They'd lead a pretty sheltered life otherwise."
"I like to serve," said Maude Pettus, who at 99 may have been the oldest volunteer.
"I like to help," she said, "and I use every opportunity I can to show at 99 I can still serve because of the grace of God."
At 7 years old, Talia Hull may have been the youngest volunteer, but she didn't want to comment.
"I had wanted to do a volunteer project with my girls," her mom, Emily Hull, said.
"I just think it's important to demonstrate that we think about others and here's an opportunity to show that."
Owen Sheed, 11, went right to work during his shift, shoveling great helpings of rice into large bins for the production lines.
He said simply, "I think it's fun to help other children."
To donate, contact Clarke at email@example.com or visit wwww.fundraising.fmsc.org/Darien.
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.