by Bob Hart
Special to The Leaven
LEAWOOD — On a chilly and rainy Saturday morning in March, they descended on the Curé of Ars school gymnasium. The youngest arrived in the arms of a parent or toddling on their own.
The oldest were helped to their stations by their grandchildren, entire multigeneration families having come together on a morning when sleeping in might have seemed an easier and more appealing option.
The attraction? A Lenten “food packing party,” organized in conjunction with the local organization Something to Eat, which in the past eight years has packed more than four million meals for the hungry, many of them in the Kansas City area.
“We think hunger is way across the ocean, and it certainly is,” said Father Richard Storey, pastor, in his opening remarks to the more than 300 assembled. “But we cannot forget the hungry right here in Kansas City.”
The Something to Eat organization refers to its targeted beneficiaries as those living in “food insecure households.” Its website defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food” and reports that one in five children in Kansas City lives in those circumstances.
Parishioner Jeff Jaworski had taken part in an earlier packing party at Culture House, a Christian-based performing arts academy in Olathe, and thought it would make a great parish project for Curé of Ars.
“This is all about bringing a community together to do something different and worthwhile,” he said. His two sons, ages 13 and 11, were eagerly participating in the parish effort, he added.
Jaworski coordinated the Curé event with assistance from fellow parishioner Joan Bellinghausen, who reported “tremendous response” from the moment it was announced.
“We filled up within five days,” Bellinghausen said.
“We had 330 people sign up,” with an additional 100 on a waiting list, according to Father Storey.
Working from stations set up throughout the gym, participants poured cups of rice, soy, vegetables, vitamins and cheese into a bag and then weighed, sealed and boxed each bag. The average participant was able to package between 200 and 240 meals in just an hour’s time. Something to Eat then partners with food pantries to see that the meals are distributed to those in need.
At one table, Tom Waris worked alongside two of his grandchildren, Lila and Sam. Waris said he has seven grandchildren in the parish school and thought the party provided a great opportunity for shared activity and role modeling.
“We try to lead by example,” he said. “This is a chance for all of us to do something together.”
Dylan Aebersold, Something to Eat program director, was also on hand to guide the volunteers through the packing process and remind them of the importance of their efforts.
“Hunger is so much more than being physically hungry. It’s also emotional,” Aebersold told the group. “If we take Jesus at his word, we are feeding him today.”