Wi-Act sets its sights on feeding 400 hungry children

With a motto of “We act together for good,” the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (Wi-Act), a joint outreach of 10 Wilton faith-based communities, will host its second annual benefit concert on April 6 to help feed starving children around the world.

Concert proceeds are used to buy ingredients for meals volunteers package under the auspices of Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency that has been committed to ending hunger since 1998.

To date, Stop Hunger Now (stophungernow.org) has coordinated the distribution of more than 138 million packaged meals to children and families in 65 countries.

Last year, 150 people attended Wi-Act’s benefit concert, raising $2,300, which contributed toward 115,000 meals being packaged in October.

“Wi-Act puts on a daylong meal-packaging event every October, consisting of four shifts with 150 people a shift and 600 volunteers total,” explained Stephen Hudspeth, chairman of Wi-Act’s steering committee.

Madeleine Wilken, a member of the Wi-Act steering committee and the Wilton Society of Friends, said meal-packaging volunteers are of all different age groups and congregational affiliations.

“We really mix things up in terms of volunteer staffing throughout the day,” she said. “The highly rated nonprofit Stop Hunger Now trains our volunteers on-site really well before each shift begins.”

Wi-Act has been participating in meal-packaging for Stop Hunger Now for three years.

“It was wonderful to see that in our third year, even more families made an effort to make this event a priority for the day, not just seeing if they could squeeze it in,” said Wi-Act director of computerized volunteer registration Paul Breitenbach, a member of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

“The takeaway is that giving a few hours of time, even on a busy Saturday, can make a huge difference to hungry children on our planet, as well as provide a teachable moment for our own children.”

Each volunteer is asked to bring a nonperishable food item to the meal-packaging event, said steering committee member Debi Forsyth, from Zion’s Hill United Methodist Church. Those items are collected and donated to local food pantries.


Wi-Act’s second annual spring benefit concert, a family-oriented affair, will take place Sunday at St. Matthew’s Church on New Canaan Road.

Mr. Hudspeth said the goal this year is to raise enough money to package 150,000 meals, adding that “115,000 meals feed over 300 kids for a year. We would feed over 400 kids for a year at 150,000 packaged meals.”

In order to achieve that goal, Wi-Act has been recruiting corporate sponsors and selling concert tickets online to boost attendance, said Mr. Hudspeth.

“Last year we only sold concert tickets at the door, but this year we’re trying for a bigger number with corporate sponsors, which we’ve been recruiting for several months now, and online ticket sales,” explained Mr. Hudspeth.

As they did for the previous concert, Juilliard-trained pianist Erica vanderLinde Feidner will play the piano at this year’s concert and Anna Rita Tornello, an award-winning lyric soprano and Wilton police officer, will sing.

“Ms. Tornello and I have become fast friends. We hang out together and practice together, and we’ve discovered that we both have a love of music on the side of our normal activities,” said Ms. vanderLinde Feidner.

Before Wi-Act asked Ms. vanderLinde Feidner and Ms. Tornello to be in last year’s benefit concert, Ms. vanderLinde Feidner said, she hadn’t played the piano in 25 years.

“I don’t really play very much, but I do play specifically for this concert to give back to the community that helped me when I was having a distressing time,” she said.

Ms. vanderLinde Feidner said this year’s benefit concert will have three themes: flowers, moon and dance.

“In the beginning, we’re having a flowers theme with songs about flowers, she said. “The second theme is the moon. Ms. Tornello will be singing a song about the moon and I’ll be playing the Moonlight Sonata.”

Songs about dance will complete the third theme.

“I’m going to be playing a piece based on a dance,” said Ms. vanderLinde Feidner, adding that she and Ms. Tornello want to have more children at the concert. “Also, one of my piano students — she’s 9 years old and dances on the side — is going to be dancing while I play.”

Adding appeal to children, there will also be ice cream from La Fenice gelato shop in Greenwich.

Ms. vanderLinde Feidner said she expects to have a great concert with a broad range of material, from classical to Broadway.

Tickets to the 4 p.m. concert on Sunday, April 6, are $15 each. According to Wi-Act, each ticket purchased funds 60 packaged meals.

Tickets may be purchased at charityauctionorganizer.com/auction/WiAct2014/