More than 600 volunteers — including at least 250 high school students — came together in San Clemente, California on Nov. 5 to create over 130,000 dry-packed meals for those in need in their area.
The project was organized by local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is listed on JustServe to be open to everyone in the community. JustServe is a website and app that allows volunteers to connect with local charities.
Some of the teens who volunteered belong to JustServe clubs in their high schools. San Clemente High School Student Council President Mason Ord said, “We love this type of community gathering. It was cool to see a lot of young kids here today who want to work and serve. That makes me excited about our future.”
The volunteers filled the center at the San Clemente California Stake, working in three shifts throughout the day. Stake President Troy A. Bourne said, “We spend a lot of time with these amazing children and families who want to do good in our community but aren’t sure where to start. They wanted to do something that really matters, and what’s more important than feeding the hungry?”
Capistrano Unified School District School Board Trustee Lisa Davis noted that students from nine schools and several church and service groups were in attendance. Volunteers also came from San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and Capistrano Beach.
“I have loved seeing our fellowship unite and serve one another in love,” she said.
The volunteers worked on an assembly line to wrap and place the nutrient-dense Harvest Pack meals into boxes. A volunteer at the end of the line rang a gong when each of the 400 boxes was filled and taped.
The meals went to Family Assistance Ministries, a large nonprofit in Orange County that provides homelessness prevention services, a women’s shelter, a food bank and other services.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Troy McAlpin, director of development at Family Assistance Ministries. “For the past 45 days, I’ve been giving tours to new volunteers in the pantry every day. When I open our freezer doors and see that they are almost empty but we have a line of cars wrapped around the building waiting to collect groceries, I cannot quite express how important it is to know that this durable packaging will help keep things through spring.”
Family Assistance Ministries depends on rescued food to continue operations, and with recent soaring prices and food shortages, grocery stores are holding on to their stocks longer — making the need greater than ever, he explained.
And with food insecurity ranked among the top three local needs according to the most recent Orange County Community Health Needs Assessment, organizers plan to make this effort an annual event — especially after seeing the success of community participation and food distribution.
Christy Farris, the marketing assistant for the Reata Glen Retirement Community in Rancho Mission Viejo, put 33 residents on a bus to volunteer. Farris said, “We love the opportunity to give back and experience the joy that comes with service.”