A beloved holiday movie once immortalized the idea that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
For Dale Oelker, the Louisville executive director of Kids Against Hunger, a ringing bell is far more significant.
“Every time a bell rings at one of our packing events,” Oelker said, “216 families get fed.”
On Saturday, at Community Church of Greensburg, Oelker’s Kids Against Hunger bell — a cowbell, to be precise — rang some 65 times, translating into 13,884 meals packed, roughly 5,500 of which will go to Decatur and Ripley County families. The remaining 60 percent, according to Oelker, will go to needy families in Haiti and Romania.
Saturday’s Kids Against Hunger packing event was organized by Community Church Associate Pastor Barry Morton and Melissa Foist of Greensburg’s Bread of Life Soup Kitchen.
“Dale did an event in Batesville in late 2011,” Morton explained. “I read about it in an article in the Daily News. Then Melissa called me. She has a passion for food and for feeding people, and she suggested we put together an event with Kids Against Hunger. We called Dale, had a meeting and that’s basically how Saturday happened.”
Once word of the packing event spread, other area churches contacted Morton, requesting to participate.
“In addition to Community Church members,” Morton said, “we also had people from St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Batesville, New Point Christian Church and Smyrna Lutheran Church.”
Additionally, according to Morton, other churches contributed monetarily to the effort.
Somewhere in the event’s planning phases, someone got the idea of creating a joint event. As a result, Saturday also saw some 130 shoeboxes packed for Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child.
“We had about 90 people working between both,” Morton said.
According to Oelker, the Kids Against Hunger workers were organized into packing teams.
“That’s how we normally set things up,” he explained, “We’re very hands on. We set up packaging lines with 11 or 12 people apiece. Those line are modeled after assembly lines. Each person in the line has a specific task — adding ingredients to a meal pouch, weighing, sealing, counting, placing pouches in the carton.
Thirty-six pouches fit in each box, translating into enough food to feed 216 people.
Each time a team finishes a box, they ring the cowbell, Oelker added; celebration and jubilation ensue.
Indeed, at Saturday’s event, the cowbell rang a handful of times during the Daily News visit; dancing, cheers and singing followed each ring.
“The hands-on nature of our events are what set us apart from other fund raisers,” Oelker said. “There are plenty of organizations out there doing great work feeding needy people, but we’re the only one I know of who makes the event into so much fun; this is something meaningful and important friends and families can do together.”
Each pouch assembled during a Kids Against Hunger event, Oelker added, is filled with ingredients that are “designed by food scientists to provide maximum nutrition for malnourished children; it’s like a multi-vitamin in a meal.”
Each pouch is composed of dehydrated vegetables, vegetable or soy protein, and rice. Additionally, vitamin-and-mineral powder is also included.
Morton already looks forward to staging the event again next year.
“We’d certainly like to turn this into a yearly thing,” he said. “We’d like to make it bigger, though, maybe hold it at another venue — maybe at the YMCA, something like that, where we can make it more inclusive of the entire community.”
Oelker stressed that any group is welcome to organize a Kids Against Hunger packaging event.
“We only ask that you set a goal for how many meals you want to pack,” he explained. “Each meal costs 25 cents, but we don’t cover that cost, so most groups have to conduct a fund raiser. After the upfront costs are covered, though, we’ll take care of the rest.”
For more information about Kids Against Hunger or to find out about organizing a packaging event, visit www.kah.louisville.org.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.