Rutland church, community come together to feed the hungry
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 07,2013
Anthony Edwards Photo
Local volunteers work hard putting together more than 12,000 meals to feed local people in need at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Sunday.
Dozens of people came to the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Sunday to help feed hungry people in the area and their work set a state record of 12,500 meals packed for hungry people in Rutland and throughout Vermont.
The Rev. John Longworth, pastor at the church, said about half the meals packed Sunday will go to the Rutland Community Cupboard. The rest will go to BROC, the Vermont Foodbank, or be distributed to senior citizens by Americorps volunteers.
Longworth, who has been in Rutland since August, said he learned about the program, in which a church, a school or other community group raises money to buys food and then packs thousands of meals for distribution, while working with a youth group in Worcester, Mass.
In the fall, Longworth proposed a similar event in Rutland. The community responded positively, including the children at the Good Shepherd’s Little Lambs Early Learning Center.
“We’ve had little 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds putting their quarters in the food boxes so that they could give some money to this project. … Strangers in the community that members of the parish have talked to say, ‘Oh that sounds so cool’ and they’ve written a check or given money right out of their pocket right then and there,” he said.
According to Longworth, the local Comcast office and Friendly’s Restaurant have also helped raise money toward the project.
“I’ve been really blessed by the way that so many different parts of the Rutland community, as soon as they heard of the project, instead of being scared of it, they were excited about it and said, ‘Wow, yeah, let’s do something that big and do it all together,’” he said.
While it would always be important to feed the hungry, Longworth said he thought the Rutland project was particularly well-timed because after the holidays, local food cupboards have given away a lot of their stores and donations decline. Longworth said he hoped Sunday’s effort would be a “huge boost to the local food cupboards.”
Volunteers at the church were not just church members but also Boy Scouts, local students and others who wanted to help out, Longworth said.
Meggen Hanna, of Rutland, came to help out on both Saturday and Sunday with her children, Nolan and Corrigan. Hanna, a chef who works at Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden, said she has a goal of feeding children in a healthy way.
Kyle Weatherhogg, a Middletown Springs teenager who was volunteering with her youth group from Grace Congregational Church, said Sunday’s event gave her an appreciation for the hard work that goes into being a member of the work force.
“I think it’s really fun, working with others and packing meals,” she added.
The event was organized by Longworth through a nonprofit agency, Outreach, Inc. – Kids Care, which helps feed hungry people in the United States and Africa, according to Matthew Martin.
Martin, a pastor from Marshfield, Mass., oversees Outreach’s efforts throughout New England and said Sundday’s effort broke a previous meal-packaging event from last year in which 10,000 meals were packed in Middlebury.
According to Martin, there are 8,000 people without enough food in Rutland and about 2,000 of them are children.
In the last eight years, Outreach volunteers have packed more than 224 million meals, Martin said.