Community comes together for Feeding Florence
Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Central United Methodist Church on Saturday, Jan. 16, to put together meal packets for distribution to the hungry in Florence. The project, initiated by Wes Fowler and hosted by Central UMC, was called Feeding Florence. The goal was to package the dry ingredients for 100,000 lentil casseroles but at the end of three one-hours shifts, there were 125,000 casserole packages made.
“One hundred thousand meals was a lofty goal,” Wes admitted. “It was much more successful than I ever imaged. This instilled in me what can be accomplished when we work together.” Wes was inspired by the work his friend Brad Fleming of Columbia does with the organization, Feeding Children Everywhere. Last fall, Wes brought the idea to the pastors at Central about doing something to feed the hungry here and they agreed to partner with Feeding Children Everywhere on this one-day event.
The lentil casserole food packets include lentils, a great source of protein and fiber; white rice, rich in carbohydrates; dehydrated vegetables which provide natural vitamins; and pink Himalayan salt that has 84 trace minerals. Each packet will feed up to six at the cost of 25 cents per serving for a nutritious meal.
The Rev. Will Malambri, pastor at Central UMC, said he and some of the church members sampled the meals before the event and found them to be very tasty. He added that they are easy to prepare. “If you can boil water, you can provide a nutritious meal of six servings,” he said. Malambri commented that the community rallied not only with volunteers, but funds to pay for the makings of the meal packets. Sen. Hugh Leatherman’s office made a considerable donation, he noted.
Malambri was moved by the number of volunteers who gave up their time on a Saturday to participate in this effort. Along with the City of Florence Faith-Based Partnership, there were volunteers from the City of Florence, the Florence Police Department, a Reformers Unanimous group, along with people of many different congregations and groups. They included young, old and disabled. Wes said his friend Brad estimated more than 650 volunteers came out on that cold, wet Saturday.
He was so encouraged by this project that he hopes it will become an annual event. “Next year I believe we could put together 200,000 meal packets, he said. During the Feeding Florence event, volunteers were arranged assembly-line style in groups of 10-13, around 20 tables for each one-hour shift.
As the meal packets were completed and sealed, they were placed in boxes, each totalling 48 meals. Throughout the day, an overhead projector updated the totals meals completed to the cheers of the participant. “It was a fun event,” Malambri noted. The completed meals were distributed to various non-profits organizations serving the homeless and hungry in Florence, including SNAC, Lighthouse Ministries and House of Hope of the Pee Dee.