Detroit Lakes’ first-ever Feed My Starving Children food packing event is just days away, and key organizer John Simonson, the pastor at First Lutheran Church, is surprisingly cool and calm.
“We’re ready,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re really ready.”
Though the event is big, requiring 500 volunteers to hand-pack 100,000 mobile meals over the course of two days, Simonson said all the necessary pieces have already been in place for awhile, so the only left to do now is feel appreciation — and anticipation.
“When I first moved to Detroit Lakes, I really felt like this would be a really doable project for a community like this,” he said. “And it turns out, I was right!”
Volunteers came “from out of the woodwork” fast and furiously to offer their help, Simonson said. The search for volunteers went public on August 1, and by August 3, groups of hopefuls were already being turned away because the 500 available spots were nearly filled.
In addition, the fundraising goal for the event was exceeded. Donations in the amount of $22,000 were needed to cover the cost of the 100,000 meals, and as of Tuesday more than $25,000 had been raised. Simonson said the extra dollars will go toward a future mobile pack. He hopes the Detroit Lakes community will hold one every year after this, with more and more meals packed each year as previous year’s records are beat.
“This is a very generous community,” he said. “I’m so grateful to everybody who has helped and who is going to volunteer. I’m just so delighted. This has just been so wonderful.”
Though Simonson is spearheading the mobile pack, all the church pastors from the Detroit Lakes Ministerial Association have been significantly involved. Almost all the churches in the area have contributed quite a bit, according to Simonson, as well as local Rotary and Kiwanis club members, among others.
“It’s been fun to get the whole community involved,” he said. “It’s an experience that’s good for us, that makes us more considerate, globally-aware citizens. It really makes you appreciate all that we have in this country.”
Meals packed through the Feed My Starving Children program are sent to people in need all over the globe — often to malnourished children in some of the world’s poorest regions, or to populations struggling in the wake of natural disasters and other emergency situations. Feed My Starving Children is a Minnesota-based, Christian nonprofit organization that has sent food to more than 70 developing nations.
Exactly where the food that gets packed in Detroit Lakes will end up was still unknown at press time. Simonson said they’d find out during the pack, which is coming up this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center (DLCCC). One 90-minute pack will happen on Friday evening and another two packs will happen during the day on Saturday.
The packs will take place in the southern gymnasium, Simonson said, and the DLCCC will be staffing The Backyard so there’ll be supervised playtime for the children of volunteers. The north gym, exercise track, pool and the Holmes Theatre will remain open to the public during the packs.
“The DLCCC has never done anything like this for anyone else,” said Simonson. “They’re basically shutting down part of their business, making their whole facility available to us, and all their staff. It’s amazing.”
Simonson said on Tuesday that there was a lot of anticipation in the air as the big event drew near, but he’s personally looking forward most to what happens afterward. He’s hoping the experience of the mobile pack will change the way people in Detroit Lakes view not only the world, but also their own community.
“I hope everybody sees and feels what it’s like to know how much you can change the world in an hour and a half,” he said. “And I hope that we will look to those in our immediate area after this project and ask, ‘Who could use us? Who needs us, as a community?’”
For more information about Feed My Starving Children, visit FMSC.org.