A view from Glen Hill: An invitation to join meal-packaging effort

What can we do right here in Wilton to feed starving children around the world? It’s hard to watch the news and see so many suffering children, yet we seem far removed from offering hands-on help. One way is coming up in barely a week.

The Wilton Interfaith Action Committee’s (Wi-ACT) Stop Hunger Now meal-packaging event is taking place on Saturday, Oct. 25, and everyone in town is invited to participate. If you are a member of the general Wilton public, use this registration site: http://vols.pt/aK9S1V. The meal packaging takes place in the parish hall of the WEPCO Church Complex at 36 New Canaan Road in four two-hour shifts throughout the day (9-11 a.m., 11-1, 1-3, and 3-5 p.m.). You can register for the shift that works best for you and choose a time so that you can still enjoy the Halloween Walk in town that same day.

These highly nutritious meals are served to otherwise starving children where the need is greatest across 79 countries around the world. In past years, Wi-ACT’s meals have gone to Sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, and Central America. The meals are served in school settings where the children fed are nourished in mind as well as in body.

In keeping with its motto “We act together for good!” Wi-ACT is aiming for 150,000 meals this year (up from 115,000 last year, 101,000 the year before, and 76,000 meals three years ago when Wi-ACT first did this meal-packaging event). The meals are all packaged in one day by volunteers (570 last year) drawn principally from the 10 Wilton faith institutions — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — that constitute Wi-ACT. This year, Wi-ACT’s own volunteers are being joined by volunteers from Rotary, and Wi-ACT always encourages members of the general Wilton community to join in even if they don’t have a faith community affiliation.

Volunteers span the ages from 6 to over 90 years old, and it is especially moving to watch volunteers on either end of that age spectrum do their work. The youngest volunteers are fully engaged in carrying containers holding four or five packages of mixed ingredients (prepared by teams of volunteers at the mixing stations) to the nearby weighing and sealing stations. The look of concentration on their faces is priceless, as are their broad smiles when they have accomplished each transfer and are returning for another load. Some will be selected to strike a large gong, marking the successful completion of another 1,000 meals to the accompaniment of much cheering from the 150 or so volunteers working at the various stations on the floor.

Toward the other end of the age spectrum, Don and Barbara Davidson are among the quite accomplished volunteers who weigh each unsealed package to be sure it meets the required standard. The weighing volunteers pass the meal packages on to the sealing volunteers across the table from them, and those volunteers hermetically seal the open end of each meal package using special sealing equipment and pass the resulting fully sealed packages on to the boxing line, where 250 meal packages are put in each box. Filled boxes then go to the pallet station and from there are hauled out to those same trucks that brought the ingredients in 50-pound bags and that will carry the finished meal packages to the Boston facilities of highly rated nonprofit Stop Hunger Now Inc. for containerization and shipment overseas where the need is greatest.

All of this work is done entirely by Wi-ACT’s volunteers working in those four two-hour shifts throughout the day. Volunteers work hard whatever their age, and many participate in family groups working side by side with other members of the community. They clearly are moved by their work, and everyone has a great time together.

Intensive setup work takes place in the morning beginning shortly after 7 to get all of the heavy bags of ingredients and sealing and other equipment into place. That setup work is very ably done by Wilton Boy Scout Troop 125 under the direction of its scout leaders and Wi-ACT Steering Committee members.

You can be part of this process, and the 30 members of Wi-ACT’s Steering Committee really hope that you will be! They know that 150,000 meals is a stretch for both the volunteers and the facility, but they also know that each additional meal is a gift of life to a child who needs it most. And under those circumstances, who would not try their best to press the limit?

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.