View from Glen Hill: Hunger work continues, new challenges arise

Each year at this time for the past eight years, the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (Wi-ACT) has held its Rise Against Hunger all-day meal-packaging event. The event brings together over 700 volunteers from the 11 Wilton faith communities —Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim — whose congregants comprise Wi-ACT, as well as other volunteers from all across our town. This year the event is being held on Saturday, Oct. 20, and everyone is welcome to volunteer for a two-hour packaging shift: 9-11 a.m., 11-1, 1-3, or 3-5 p.m. You may register online at http://signup.com/go/iYuMKBW.

The event this year will take Wi-ACT over the one-million-meals-packaged mark! Volunteers have a lot of fun working side-by-side with many others towards the day’s goal of 160,000 meals. The meals go to feed some of the hungriest children in the world and are usually served in educational settings where 450 children are fed for an entire year as they are nourished in mind as well as in body.

Wi-ACT’s event is not only top-rated nonprofit Rise Against Hunger, Inc.’s largest annual meal-packaging event in New England but also one of its largest nationally. Wi-ACT’s meals have regularly gone to Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa but have also been used in hurricane-devastation relief efforts in Florida and Texas.

Volunteers are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for local food pantries, and donations each year fill three SUVs. You can also contribute financially to the meal-packaging work. The bulk ingredients cost Wi-ACT 29 cents per highly nutritious meal. Donations can be made online at http://events.stophungernow.org/WIACT102018 noting that it is for the Wilton event.

Rise’s regional office in Jersey City, N.J., serves Wi-ACT’s Wilton event. Its 10,000 square feet of warehouse space were donated to Rise by a generous member of a New York City faith community who was so moved by his meal-packaging experience that he wanted to facilitate Rise’s having a location in this metropolitan area. Likewise, the Kraft Heinz Company has been so impressed with Rise’s work that it contributes free of charge all of the vitamin packets inserted in each meal package, a donation worth millions of dollars a year.

Wi-ACT’s 160,000 meals a year are part of over four million meals a year facilitated by this one Rise regional office. The office’s largest event is happening right now at Pepsico and will package, over multiple days using the volunteer efforts of many employees, a total of one million meals. On the other end of the meal-generation spectrum, but also very important to Rise’s efforts, Wilton High School students will be doing their own meal-packaging event right after Wi-ACT’s. Rise’s regional office director spoke with heartfelt enthusiasm about how great it has been to work with Wilton students: they are well-organized, enthusiastic, and hard and focused workers.

Cystic fibrosis

As Wi-ACT’s 38-member Steering Committee — drawn from the congregations of its 11 faith institutions — has been planning for this year’s meal-packaging event, it has also been thinking about ways to expand its work going forward to meet other needs. One type of work that Wi-ACT has been involved in for multiple years now is providing support to cystic fibrosis (CF) patients from abroad who otherwise could not afford to come here for life-giving treatment that is simply not available in their home countries.

Cystic fibrosis is a debilitating disease that, left untreated by advanced medical techniques, is often fatal by teen years. Yet the likelihood of a cure for CF being found in a decade or so is high, and young CF sufferers who can be sustained until then have a very good prospect for living a full life of normal length. Bridges of Hope serves these CF patients from overseas in Wi-ACT Steering Committee members Dr. Hossein Sadeghi and his wife Dr. Golnar Raissi’s clinic at Tully Center in Stamford where these physicians do their work pro bono. Their outpatient treatment over the three weeks of a young patient’s stay makes all the difference.

Wi-ACT has now decided to establish a special fund devoted to covering expenses associated with supporting these patients during their time here.

There is an especially touching wish of one 14-year-old CF patient who also suffers from type 1 diabetes: she is an excellent student who is also passionate about soccer and made her school’s team. She is a huge fan of soccer superstar David Beckham, and her great dream is to have a soccer ball autographed by him. Maybe that can happen: Miracles abound when, as Wi-ACT’s motto proclaims, people work together for good.

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