Sunday, May 31, 2020
Steve Buss and Whitney Sanjari had the responsibility of making sure there was enough rice in the bins for each work station during MobilePack. Herald dPhoto by Bob Kliebenstein.

Global meal starts in Tomah

Hundreds of volunteers gather to aid Tomah Area MobilePack for Feed My Starving Children

The Gold Building at Tomah Recreation Park was a hive of activity with hundreds of worker bee volunteers July 14-15.

The Gold Building was home base for the Tomah Area MobilePack for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). Volunteers measure ingredients, pack food, and prepare boxes for shipment.  The food is distributed to various community settings:  orphanages, schools, clinics, refugee camps, and nutrition programs in more than 62 countries.

The fourth Tomah MobilePack was held last week. The first was held in 2011, said organizer Fran Hewuse. Since that year the event has been coordinated every other year on the second weekend in July.

Each year over 100,000 meals are packed. The maximum packed was 125,000 in 2013, Hewuse said. Other impressive stats: In four years over 3,000 volunteers have gathered in Tomah. Nearly $100,000 has been raised for the FMSC.

"Mostly from local personal donations," Hewuse said. "Not just people from Tomah, but from Eau Claire, La Crosse and (smaller communities surrounding Tomah)."

Friday starts with five bags of rice each weighing 2,000 pounds. Also included three large boxes, 800 pounds each, of food grade soy mixed with other ingredients for a nutritious meal shipped globally.

Planning starts in January," Hewuse said. "Then we meet monthly. We lock in the second week of July between the Tomah tractor pull and Monroe County Fair (to access the Gold Building)."

Feed My Starving Children is based in the Twin Cities. Hewuse 's first experience with the organization was with an Ecumenical youth group trip to Chanhassen, MN to help pack meals. It was there he learned of FMSC MobilePack.

FMSC asks MobilePack hosts to raise $20,000 to offset costs for the food and to guarantee at least 500 volunteers to commit to shifts over two days. Two shifts were Friday and three on Saturday under guidance of four FMSC staff on site.

"We've had volunteers who sign up for one shift and end up working all the shifts," Hewuse said. "From 5-years-old to 90-years-old. Their ability level is massive."

With only four MobilePacks under their belt, there are many stories to share. Hewuse recalled year one. They were short of the $20,000 goal. A youth group from Minnesota passing through Tomah hears of their MobilePack and stops at Recreation Park to assist with the final clean up shift. Learning they were short funds a check was written by the youth group to cover the cost.

Just one example, he adds.



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