Local volunteers fight hunger worldwide

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Oak Crest pairs up with hunger relief organization

On April 21, as part of National Volunteer Month, dozens of Oak Crest volunteers will assemble and donate 10,000 meal packets for Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid to countries like Nicaragua, Uganda, Yugoslavia, and Zambia. The idea was presented to me by a coworker whose son hosted a similar project for Eagle Scouts, says Alison Krull, volunteer coordinator at Oak Crest. After I attended an event to see what the meal program was all about, I thought it sounded like something we could do. Oak Crest has always done a lot within the surrounding community, but nothing yet globally. This seemed like it would be the perfect opportunity for us to broaden the scope of our services.

Food for thought

According to the United Nations, each day more than 25,000 people outside of the U.S. (one person every three and a half seconds) dies from hunger and hunger-related causes. That s more deaths than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined each year. Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based nonprofit, has provided more than $70 million worth of direct aid and 34 million meals to 72 countries worldwide since 1998. The meal packaging program, like the one Oak Crest is organizing, has provided more than 34 million meals since 2005. The meal packet program is unique in that it provides a hands-on opportunity for individuals from ages 4 to 104 to fight the cycle of hunger and malnutrition around the world without ever leaving their hometown, says Andrew Sullivan, Philadelphia program manager for Stop Hunger Now. Ninety-five percent of our meals support school feeding programs and the other 5% goes to aiding situations like the Haiti earthquake and the Horn of Africa drought. Sullivan says each meal packet costs 25 cents to make and contains four basic ingredients: rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and vitamins. Oak Crest volunteers like Nancy Leggiadro helped raise $2,500 to fulfill their goal of 10,000 meal packets. According to Sullivan, the 10,000 meal packets Oak Crest volunteers donate will provide enough food to feed 250 children for 40 days. Once the meals leave our Philadelphia warehouse, we report which countries the meals have gone to as well as the exact organization they have gone to support, says Sullivan.

Group effort

When I heard about the Stop Hunger Now project I got so excited. Whenever there is a need to raise money for a good cause, I volunteer to help because I really enjoy doing that, says Nancy, a retired special projects and conference coordinator for Chase Manhattan Bank. I worked in public relations throughout my career, and I feel that if I have this gift, then I should use it and help whenever I can. Through soliciting donations from private donors, restaurants, banks, movie ticket sales, as well as the proceeds from Stop Hunger Now pins made by volunteers, Nancy has been instrumental in helping the project become a reality. Regardless of how big or how small the donations we received are, what s most important is that we brought awareness to this cause and this wonderful organization, she says. Krull says the best part of her job is empowering people like Nancy to use their talents and skills in an impactful way. In 2011, Oak Crest volunteers logged 69,660 hours in a variety of capacities, including helping mentor local youth, providing meals to the hungry, and knitting and sewing items to those in need. It s rewarding to see the satisfaction our volunteers get from helping others, says Krull. The majority of our volunteers are anxious to get involved in service-oriented projects because now they finally have the time. Volunteering also fulfills the intrinsic need we all have to help others. For Nancy, it all boils down to one simple idea. I think making the world a better place really starts with respect and compassion for others, she says. My philosophy in life is: If you re going to do something, make it extraordinary. When you help someone else it stimulates your mind and keeps you young.

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