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Freeland meal packaging event to help children in need across Africa, Caribbean, U.S.
Mike Mellison, a retired part-time Freeland resident and full-time humanitarian, is helping the Whidbey community lend a hand to others.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22 and 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, Mellison and other volunteers will gather at the Island Church of Whidbey in Langley to assemble nutritious meals for kids in need.
The meal packaging event is coordinated through Children of the Nations, a non-profit Christian organization which provides destitute and orphaned children with education and resources. The organization’s method is to give a “hand up” rather than a handout by helping individuals utilize their natural resources to become self-sufficient, according to its website. These hand-ups are provided through Village Partnerships and Children’s Homes in Sierra Leone, Malawi, Uganda, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Liberia and the United States.
During the meal packaging event volunteers will be provided with all of the necessary materials (plastic bags, hair nets and plastic gloves, shipping materials and meal supplies including lentils, dehydrated vegetables, rice and vegan faux-chicken). Packaged meals are shipped overseas where they are customized with traditional spices and flavors and, when possible, supplemented with meat. Each meal costs approximately 25 cents; Mellison has been raising funds in order to package as many meals as possible. There is no cost to attend and volunteer, although donations will be accepted.
Children of the Nations workers will also share stories of some of the kids who benefit from the meals.
“You see the pictures of these kids who are basically starving and you see within a short amount of time how, by having nutritional meals, they just blossom, and it kind of touches your heart,” he said.
According to Kyle Donn, a Children of the Nations employee, the goal is to package 40,000 meals within the two-day period. The cost for assembling that many meals will be approximately $10,000 total; Mellison said he hopes to have about 200 people in attendance.
Mellison took part in a similar event two years ago in Arizona, where he resides during the winter.
“It was a good cause and I saw how it brought people together, I liked that aspect of it,” he said.
After doing some research, Mellison said he came across Children of the Nations and contacted them to begin organizing a meal packaging project for Whidbey Island.
“I wanted to arrange it as a community event as opposed to just something we did as a church,” Mellison said, explaining that everyone is welcome to attend. “I think it’s better to get everybody involved.”
Mellison, who has mentored for Big Brothers, makes regular trips to Bosnia to help start businesses and has traveled to Africa to help build villages, said helping others is something he has always done.
“It’s just something I really enjoy doing,” he said. “Kids, even when they don’t have much, [are] happy. We have so much in our culture, just being in some of these places and seeing you can still be happy if you’ve got enough to eat and shelter.”