Church group, students work together to feed the hungry

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 12, 2011

By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post
What do you get when you combine members of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Livingstone football players, students from Catawba College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and a whole lot of enthusiasm?
Some 20,000 meals packaged for the Stop Hunger Now campaign.
More than 100 people from all these groups came together in the church’s fellowship hall Sunday afternoon to complete the service project. It took them 90 minutes. A lot was accomplished, but there was also fun and fellowship in the process.
“We’re so happy to have so many folks with us today, from our church and from all over the community,” said the Rev. Rhodes Woolly, senior pastor. “Projects like this help us move beyond the tragedy of 9/11, and help us find all the good that exists right here in our community.”
Using an assembly-line process, Stop Hunger Now lets volunteer groups put together meals consisting of a vitamin packet, dehydrated vegetables, soy and rice. The meals are used primarily to support school feeding programs in developing countries. The packaging operation is mobile and goes to volunteers. St. John’s volunteers put together some 10,000 at a church retreat last fall.
St. John’s involvement in Stop Hunger Now came about through one of its members, Catherine Soderberg.
“I have always had a heart for feeding the poor,” said Soderberg, surveying the bustling crowd. “We needed a service project for our church retreat last fall and we got such good feedback that we wanted to do it again.”
She added, “I feel like a big load has been taken off my shoulders this afternoon. I prayed about this for months and months. I said, ‘Lord this is your project. Let it run.’ And He has.”
Nearly 20 Livingstone College football players brought brawn to the project. Church-member David Willingham is a Livingstone volunteer, building items to help outfit the team’s equipment and dressing rooms. He told them about the project, and they came en masse.
“They’re fine young men,” said Greg Richardson, assistant coach. “They are growing toward adulthood. Through projects like this they discover there are people in the world other than themselves, people who have needs. These young men have the power to take care of those needs.”
“They’re a true reflection of what Livingstone is,” Willingham added.
Pastor Jan Huntley and Steve and Camille Butner sealed bags of food, then tossed them to Livingstone students DaQuawn Dye, a junior defensive back, Matthew Young, a freshman receiver and Ethan Grantham, a junior running back. All three of the young men easily snagged the bags.
Down the row, freshman Hillman Tabi, a kicker and punter, and sophomore guard Allyne Hall lined up sealed bags on a grid, preparing them for members of the church’s Boy Scout Troop 443 to load into cardboard boxes.
Hall said he came out “just to help the community.”
Several church members including Mimi Carlton didn’t even have a chance to change clothes after the morning service.
“We packaged meals at our church retreat and found it very satisfying,” said Carlton, working with her husband, Tommy. “The fellowship among all these groups is wonderful.”
Nearby, more football players hefted 50-pound bags of rice with ease. Working together were junior offensive lineman Damein Greatheart, freshman offensive lineman Tyree Gainey and senior Michael Haygood, the defensive lineman captain.
Greatheart grinned when asked whether the bags were heavy.
“No ma’am,” he said. “They’re real light.”
When asked about the project, he responded, “It’s fun. It’s a great experience to help out other people.”
At another table, Rachel Cone and Steffi Cook, both seniors at Catawba, worked with church members to load the rice into individual bags.
The young women’s enthusiasm was infectious.
“Yeah, go team seven!” Cone shouted over the din of conversation and laughter.
Even though fourth-grader Anna Woolly had her right arm in a sling, she had no trouble being a “runner,” ferrying boxes of rice to tables to be sealed. She simply worked one-handed, she said.
Two other enthusiastic volunteers were Mary Willis Page and her husband, Tommy.
The couple decided to sign up, she said, in the midst of remembering 9/11.
“I thought, we are gonna sign up and give something good back in this world.”
Davey Scott, who has Down syndrome, volunteered with his parents, Gary and Scott.
“I had a wonderful time,” he said, pretty much summing up the sentiment of the whole group.
For more information about Stop Hunger Now, visit
Susan Shinn is communications assistant at St. John’s Lutheran Church.