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Woodbury feeds 11,000 in October

Local leaders have begun an $880,000 fund-raising campaign against world and local hunger. It will culminate with an Oct. 8-11 event that requires 20,000 volunteers.

Lisa Engh and Nikki Robbins need to recruit 20,000 volunteers if they want to feed 11,000 children for a year.

At a cost of $880,000, a group of local leaders is putting on a Feed My Starving Children MobilePack, a four-day service project during which Woodbury residents, businesspeople, school district employees, government officials, and churchgoers will pack 4 million meals to be sent overseas to feed hungry people. 

As many as 1,200 people at a time will visit Bielenberg Sports Center for two-hour shifts from Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 8-11.

The event is an enormous undertaking that is open to people from all sectors of the city.

How it started

Every year or two, King of Kings Lutheran, Five Oaks Community, Eagle Brook, and Woodbury Lutheran church members band together to conduct what Feed My Starving Children calls a MobilePack. The nonprofit organization – which has meal-packing locations in Chanhassen, Eagan, Coon Rapids, Illinois and Arizona – brings its trucks, forklifts, staff members, music, videos, Jumbotron, and meal-packing stations to the volunteers.

As everyday Joes pack meals for those in need, the Feed My Starving Children representatives go to work on the details — drilled down to the speed-up-the-music-if-we-need-to-work-faster level.

“it’s like a complete science,” Engh said. “They have these guys who are logistics crazy. It’s super impressive.”

The idea for a massive meal-packing event hatched in May 2014, during a Woodbury Area Prayer Breakfast at which Mark Crea, chief executive officer of Feed My Starving Children, served as a keynote speaker.

The organization touted an initiative in the south metro. Eighteen churches teamed up to pack 3 million meals in six days.

At the prayer breakfast, Crea issued a challenge: would Woodbury complete a MobilePack as a city?

“Some people heard the challenge,” Robbins said.

Some people – Robbins nudged Engh – took up the challenge. Engh wasn’t the only one. She recruited fellow King of Kings Lutheran Church member Robbins to be her co-chairwoman of the event. 

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens went to Feed My Starving Children for more information, returning with a want to see the MobilePack happen. 

By last November, local leaders – “people who move things forward,” Roberts said – formed an eclectic 40-person committee that regularly meets to plan the next steps in mobilizing the masses to fight against world and local hunger.

The co-chairwomen opened up their idea of a citywide MobilePack to the large group: What do you think?

Their response, Robbins said, was: “Ready to go, ready to go.”

Overwhelmingly, the group members wanted to get involved, joining committees immediately. The group and its leaders are energized.

“We can do this,” Engh said. “We can come together and do something as a community.”

Togetherness

A citywide MobilePack would be a new venture for Feed My Starving Children. Woodbury’s marquee event would build on the positive momentum of the 3-million-meal MobilePack in the southern suburbs. 

For local churches with a history of partnering up for service projects, this October’s event will be 16 times bigger than their usual 200,000- to 250,000-meal MobilePacks. 

Feed My Starving Children is anticipating the citywide 4-million-meal MobilePack to be an event that serves as a model for other communities, Engh and Robbins said.

“Four million! Recordbreaking! Unheard of!” Engh exclaimed. “But doable. it’s going to be awesome.”

Mobilizing masses 

Recruiting volunteers proved surprisingly easy so far, Robbins and Engh said. But they still need numbers.

“We never heard a no. Doors kept opening and have kind of never closed,” Robbins said. “Every time you tell somebody about it, they get really excited about it.” 

While recruiting 20,000 volunteers might seems like a daunting task, Engh believes “we’ll get there.”

Robbins said: “That’s like a third of the city.”

For a cause

Putting on a large-scale event like a MobilePack is an expensive task. 

But citywide, it’s only $6 a head, Engh and Robbins said. Donations will cover the 22-cents-a-meal cost paid to Feed My Starving Children. The city donated the use of Bielenberg Sports Center.

Church members already donated more than $200,000, and the organization is asking for more donations to help see the project through.

Ten percent, or $88,000, of the proceeds from the fund-raiser will go to Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf, based at Woodbury Lutheran. 

To donate money toward the Oct. 8-11 MobilePack, go to fmsc.org/mobilepack/events and click the Get Involved button. Volunteer sign-ups for MobilePacks generally begin about six weeks prior to the event on the same webpage.

Corporate or individual sponsorships are welcome, but Engh said “it may be more meaningful if they donate and volunteer.”

Businesses and nonprofit groups should get creative about fund raising and bringing volunteers. 

“God can do this,” Robbins said. “It’s not us doing it. It is the whole city community coming together.”

Added Engh: “We understand that God is at the center of this. It’s God feeding those children.”

 

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