Food For The Poor’s Volunteer Program continues to grow. Last month, more than 450 volunteers representing South Florida churches, businesses and community-minded individuals helped the charity assemble 116,640 MannaPack meals for families in need in Ukraine.
Florida Atlantic University Owls women’s volleyball team was eager to pack meals at FAU Arena, its home gymnasium court.
“We make it a little friendly competition because we’re athletes,” said MiaBella English, a junior at FAU. “We really do love giving back and it’s a lot of fun for our team to do together.”
FFTP teamed up with longtime partner Feed My Starving Children to host the event on Saturday, July 23.
At the end of each of their sessions, English and her teammates and other volunteers were invited by FMSC staffers to pray over the boxes of meals they had just packed. Volunteers also raised money to help cover the cost of shipping the meals and provide ongoing humanitarian aid in Ukraine and surrounding areas where refugees have fled.
FFTP officially launched its new volunteer program in April with its first Hearts United Community Day. A second Hearts United Community Day is planned for Saturday, Aug. 20, where volunteers will pack toys and school supplies for children in the charity’s Angels Of Home homes in the Caribbean and Latin America.
But even before that, volunteers were an instrumental part of FFTP’s work. Last September, 80 volunteers helped the charity pack essential goods for Haiti at the Help Haiti Community Event. Soon afterward, volunteers who came to that event became “regulars” and continued to come in weekly to help FFTP sort goods.
Today, FFTP has 185 registered volunteers and 25 who come to the charity’s Coconut Creek headquarters each week to assist with various tasks including praying over donors’ prayer requests, assisting with mailings, addressing holiday cards, filling gift bags and setting up at the charity’s community events to name just a few things.
Together, they’ve logged more than 800 volunteer hours since January.
“That’s how the program began to grow,” said Pennie Stagnitta, FFTP’s Volunteer Coordinator. “We look to increase opportunities for volunteers who want to help us and do something really meaningful. Our volunteers build relationships with one another. They come in not knowing anyone and they leave with those new relationships and new memories. We couldn’t do what we do without their support.”
Two more Hearts United Community Day events are planned for Friday, November 11, and Saturday, December 3.
Lawrence Franzoni, Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus at St. Bonaventure Church in Davie, said when members saw the opportunity to help Ukraine through Join The Pack Ukraine, everybody wanted to get involved. About two dozen joined the Knights of Columbus packing team.
“The Knights of Columbus volunteer all over the place. We try to give back as much as we can,” Franzoni said. “This is a great activity to get everybody involved in a hands-on way. We have our families out here.”
The event included children ages 5 and older and attracted students looking to give back, including young people from Broward County’s Nova High School.
“It only takes two hours to be able to give back so much,” said Sofia Mazumdar, a ninth-grader from Nova High who participated with her twin sister, Livia. “It’s so rewarding and it’s a lot of fun.”
ALIVE Community, a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Miami, came with one of the largest teams with nearly 40 members.
“My group loves to volunteer whenever and wherever we can,” said Tatiana Ovalle, of ALIVE Community.”
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