Feeding many

MANSON – When Owen Eldridge, 7, of Clare, poured a measure of dehydrated vegetables into the funnel used to fill Then Feed Just One meal packages, it was done with all the precision his eyeball could muster.

Not too much, not too little – just right.

“It’s not really hard,” he said.

Eldridge was among a group of more than 50 volunteers who spent their morning filling the packages with rice, flavoring mix, dehydrated vegetables and dried beans at the Manson Northwest Webster High School.

He said he was glad to be able to help people before going off with his family to celebrate an early Thanksgiving. He didn’t even mind missing his usual Saturday morning activity.

“If I didn’t go to Thanksgiving, I’d be watching TV,” he said.

His mom, Holly Eldridge, was helping to fill food packages too.

“It always makes you feel good to give back,” she said.

Nearby, Doris Strutzenberg, of Manson, was carefully weighing the filled, but still unsealed, packages of food. She was the final quality control step; she verified the weight of the package with a digital scale.

The consistent work of the other volunteers made her job easy.

“Most of them are pretty much on the money,” she said. “I just have to add a few or take a out a few.”

She said she’s helped at several other of the group’s packaging events, and that she too, enjoys helping others.

Richard Seivert, director of the LeMars Then Feed Just One program, said that the day’s goal was packaging 16,000 meals. The meals are destined for the Cerro De Plata foundation in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

“They oversee 23 children’s homes and orphanages,” he said.

The food is desperately needed there.

“Honduras is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere,” he said. Only Haiti is poorer.

Volunteers who come to the Then Feed Just One event make a donation that helps pay for the food and the shipping. Seivert said that each package will feed six and costs less than $1 to produce and send.

“You can feed six people for 96 cents,” he said.

Last year, the organization sent 1.38 million meals overseas. This year, he said, it is on track to produce between 1.1 and 1.3 million.

Peggy Seivert, of Manson, was helping to package the meal packages. She made sure that each box has exactly 36 of them.

“I just wanted to help,” she said. “Thanksgiving is when we need to help people.”

She said she’s seen dire poverty first hand. Being in Bulgaria during Thanksgiving opened her eyes.

“We were the most thankful we’ve ever been,” she said.

Patty Licht, of Manson, was also carefully measuring dehydrated vegetables. Saturday was her birthday; she turned 67.

“It’s nothing special,” she said.

Well, actually, it is. At the end of the day, the volunteers finished 90 boxes of packaged meals. They did that by asking for an additional donation to get them past the 70 boxes already paid for.

They raised the money, about $600, in minutes.