FFTP Volunteers Pack More Than 116,000 Meals to Help Ukraine
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (July 27, 2022) More than 450 volunteers filled FAU Arena Saturday to help Food For The Poor pack 116,640 lifesaving MannaPack rice meals for children and families in desperate need in Ukraine.
FFTP teamed up with longtime partner Feed My Starving Children to host Join The Pack Ukraine, drawing South Florida churches, businesses, community groups and civic-minded individuals.
Volunteers moved to music that played throughout the arena as they eagerly scooped, spooned, weighed, sealed and boxed the meals. Some wore T-shirts that said, “I Stand With Ukraine” with the blue and gold colors of the country’s flag.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Linda Coello, President and Founder of CEPUDO, FFTP’s longtime partner in Honduras, who made a special trip to South Florida to pack meals.
After seeing how MannaPack meals have blessed the lives of families in Honduras, Coello said she wanted to “pay if forward” to help those suffering in Ukraine.
MannaPack is a specially formulated rice meal packed with vitamins and essential nutrients. In the countries where FFTP helps, the meals are like manna from heaven for children and families who are starving.
“It’s special because I know how these meals are literally going to save lives,” Coello said. “It’s a way to give back and to thank Food For The Poor donors for all of their support in Honduras.”
At the end of each of the three packing sessions, 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.
Bill Bachrodt, whose family’s automotive group was among the event’s sponsors, said packing meals was a meaningful experience to share with family and employees.
“We want our employees to be community-oriented and we’re looking for opportunities for them to volunteer,” Bachrodt said. “It’s very gratifying knowing you’re able to give something back directly to Ukrainians.”
The venue was home turf for the Florida Atlantic University Owls women’s volleyball team that plays on the gymnasium’s 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.”
Lawrence Franzoni, Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus at St. Bonaventure Church in Davie, said when members saw the opportunity to help 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.”
Chinese Baptist Church in Coral Springs was among the many churches represented at the event. Deacon Kan Hwee said helping those in need is part of the church’s mission. Those thoughts were echoed by Tatiana Ovalle, of ALIVE Community, a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Miami, which came with one of the largest teams, boasting 40 members.
“My group loves to volunteer whenever and wherever we can,” Ovalle said. “Because this is for Ukraine, this feels more personal because of what’s happening right now.”
Erica Zingale, of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, said she hopes Ukrainians feel the love that comes with the meals that were packed.
“I know they truly need us,” she said. “We care about them. We’re thinking about them. We’re praying for them. They’re in our hearts and prayers. We’re all here united for them.”
FFTP Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Mark Khouri told the volunteers that while Ukraine is outside the charity’s usual reach, FMSC has built a longstanding network in the war-torn country that provides assurances that the meals will get to the people who need them the most.
“Our donors really wanted to respond to the crisis in Ukraine,” Khouri said. “We’re so grateful to all of our supporters who came to FAU to help us pack food and show that love and solidarity for the people of Ukraine.”
In a videotaped message played for the volunteers, Mark Crea, Executive Director and CEO of FMSC, thanked FFTP and its supporters for their generous donations. Crea shared the story of a 99-year-old woman he recently met in a Ukrainian refugee camp who’s now lived through two wars.
“She’s seen a doctor. She’s got a bed to crawl into every night. And she’s being fed every day,” Crea said. “The difference that makes for her is tremendous. Thank you, Food For The Poor. You’re saving millions and millions of lives.”
Sponsors included longtime donors Gerry and Marilyn Ogier, Key Food, Bachrodt Automotive Group, Hormel, ResourceOne, Seaboard Marine, Sonitrol and Goya.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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