Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. The scene in the TEENS Inc. gym didn’t look like anything that would be typically found in Nederland. Long tables were covered with weighing scales, measuring bins, transporting trays, huge boxes of grains, rice, spices and vitamins.
Men, women and children stood at the tables, their heads covered in garish red and green hair nets, some of them wore face masks, all had on blue rubber gloves. You could tell the adults took their jobs seriously, carefully doling out exact proportions of the ingredients, funneling them into the container bags.
Was this some kind of factory? A scientific experiment? Were these slave laborers? What the heck was going on?
Terry Lewis II from Kansas City greeted people who entered the busy room. He lives in san Jose now and is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Rise Against Hunger, the organization that gets towns and cities all over the country packing up raw ingredients into containers to be sent to countries where people need food, need the nutritious meal that is being created on the other side of the world.
As each bit of food is mixed into the baggie, one can almost picture it being opened in a hot, dry landscape where boiling water is all that is needed to turn the raw ingredients to a breakfast, lunch or dinner that will stick to the ribs all day long.
What takes minutes to put together in Nederland can make a difference in a life elsewhere.
Last year, says Lewis, 60 million meals were packaged in California alone. He drove up from San Jose, arrived last Wednesday, Oct. 5, in Denver, loaded the truck with the necessities for the packaging and headed to Nederland, enjoying the lake and the fall colors.
This is the third year the event has taken place in Nederland. Led by Nederland Community Presbyterian Church pastor Hansen Wendlandt, this year’s event was organized by Fran Bauer of the Nederland Lions’ Club. “I got involved from the get go this year,” she says, spending months fundraising and organizing the details. All of the food and packing materials are paid for by the Nederland community, the Rotary Club, the Food Pantry and with a grant from Tebo Development. She said the Ned project piggybacks on a corporate event so the transportation is paid for.
Each year’s goal for Ned has been 10,000 meals and Fran says she will raise that to 17,000 meals next year. She had counted on 60 volunteers showing up to work and at the last count, there were 63 hair netted, gloved residents, chatting, laughing and cheering every time the 1,000 gong was struck.
Girl scout runners picked up filled boxes and scooted them over to where the baggies were weighed and packed. Each bag weighed an exact amount, an important detail for the shipping part.
The long-term goal is to stop hunger by 2030. Lewis says he hopes Nederland continues be a part of the project.
Where there is a need, we will always try to fill it, he said as the last bagged meal was slipped into the last package to be stacked in the truck and hauled to Denver where Nederland’s contribution will be added to the hundreds of thousands prepared by giving hands all over the country.
As the Ned volunteers slipped off their hairnets and gloves, they hugged each other and smiled to each other and themselves, knowing they had accomplished a better than average days’ work.
(Originally published in the October 12, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)