By Cheryl Conway
Planning and organizing for a year, raising funds through personal donations and sponsors, setting up the day of the event, moving boxes, running around making sure everything is according to plan, then cleaning up- exhausting indeed!
But when all was prepped, packaged and sent on its way- the satisfaction outweighed all of that hard work.
The Madison Rotary Club and Foundation held a successful End Hunger 3.6 Project of 2016 on Sat., April 16, at the Vincent Martyr Church in Madison. Close to 300 volunteers and Rotarians throughout Morris, Essex and Somerset counties packed the church’s gymnasium and helped to assemble 52,000 pre-cooked meals to be distributed to various non-profit, hunger focused organizations throughout New Jersey and New York City.
“There’s a child out there; there’s a senior out there; there’s a disabled person out there- 52,000 times, now we are going to provide to someone who otherwise would not have a meal,” says Ellsworth Havens, project chair and president of the Madison Rotary Club Foundation.
“There’s a satisfaction there,” he says. “A child who could go to school not hungry; a senior who could go to school not hungry- it did what it was supposed to do.”
The uncooked meals that were packaged included either rice and beans or macaroni and cheese, selected for their popularity, easy packing and storing, and great source of carbohydrates, Havens explained. Each meal equaled one pound, and included enough to provide six meals per bag.
Each station packaged the items into pre-weighted bags medically sealed with a shelf-life for up to one year; and were then distributed to participating agencies on site that day.
The two largest supported agencies were the Bowery Mission in NYC which received about $25,000 worth of food; and the Salvation Army of NJ with 28 sites receiving the meals, says Havens, totaling about $15,000 in food. Other recipients included The Table of Hope and the Market Street Mission in Morristown; St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Newark; a soup kitchen in Dover and a Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown.
Besides filling the stomachs of those hungry, the project was fulfilling to all those that helped from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“We had everything from individual people to people in organizations and groups,” says Havens, “local volunteers, to businesses to school children. It was a broad spectrum of groups, broad spectrum of ages.” Volunteers came from the Madison Y, Keller William Metropolitan, St. Vincent Martyr School and even 30 middle school seventh and eighth graders.
Youngest volunteer was eight months old, Havens laughed, to a number of volunteers in their 80’s.”
With a goal of packaging 50,000 meals, organizers were pleased that they were able to “edge over our goal,” with an additional 2,000 meals, but realized they could provide that much more.
“We got a lot done in a very brief amount of time,” says Havens. “We could have done more but we ran out of boxes,” says Havens. “The need is a multiple of that. We know we could provide more. There’s still unfortunately a growing need. We learned a lot this year; our planning, we know what to do.”
Next year, the rotary plans to double the amount of meals packaged, says Havens. The non-profit group already had a meeting to start planning for next year’s event to be held in the spring.
Since the gym at the church will be undergoing renovations, Havens says “We need to relocate,” so they are currently looking at different venues.
A number of nearby rotary clubs have expressed an interest to get involved in the Hunger 3.6 Project next year, including Morris Plains, Hanover, Dover, Denville and possibly some clubs in NY, he adds.
For this year’s event, rotaries from Summit, Morris Twp. and Randolph helped with the project.
The End Hunger 3.6 Project stands for the 3.6 seconds in which someone dies of malnutrition or starvation. The goal of the project is to prepare and package between 100,000 – 150,000 meals to be distributed to various non-profit, hunger-focused organizations throughout New Jersey and New York City.
Havens and several others came up with the project idea this past summer. With concern over homelessness, poverty and “children being very hungry,” rotary members wanted to address those areas, explains Havens, a Madison Rotary member since 2007.
The number of people who go hungry and who are in need of assistance in finding a meal in the NJ and NYC area continues to rise, the rotary cited in a previous press release. In NJ alone, the number of people living below the poverty level is more than one million. One in five children in NJ is hungry and relying on food stamps to provide daily meals.
The event was made possible through outside supporters, individuals and groups such as the lead sponsor Td Bank and major sponsors including Keller Williams Metropolitan, Grace Episcopal Church, Investor’s Bank, St. Vincent Martyr Church, Fulton Bank, the Forum Club, and Carlotta Budd LLC.
“This is what Rotarians do throughout the community and the world,” says Havens, events like these. “This is what we do. July 1 we start all over again.”
For further information about the Madison Rotary or this project, go to www.madisonrotarynj.org.