Throughout his career, David Miller, senior pastor at Naperville's St. Timothy Lutheran Church, has visited famished countries and seen "far too many children die" from malnourishment.
On Saturday, he and several members from his church were on the "other end" of the crisis as they were among the 6,000 volunteers expecting to pack nutrient powder, rice and dehydrated vegetables into 1.2 million meals for people in poor nations at this weekend's seventh annual Feed the Need! Illinois food-packing event at Naperville's North Central College.
"This event requires a whole lot of work and it brings a tremendous amount of joy," Miller said as he prepared to get packing. "That's why we like to say this is the joy of the Lord."
Bob Huebner, co-founder of the food-packing event for Feed My Starving Children, who provided both the direction and the infectious energy the volunteers will need between noon Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday, said a majority of this year's packs will be sent directly to hurricane-ravaged nations in the Caribbean.
The charity partners with agencies on the ground in each of the countries it serves, which include Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines, among others.
Once the food arrives via secured transport, Huebner said the entire haul would feed roughly 3,200 children one meal a day for a year. That would be in addition to the roughly 8,800 children already fed for a year through the nearly 4 million meals packed at previous events.
"It just looks like a bag of rice and stuff but each bag, when mixed with potable water, contains six meals," he said. "These packs are going to ensure those children see their next birthday."
Aurora resident Bonnie Sullivan, a member of St. Timothy the Apostle Church, has traveled on a mission trip to Haiti in previous years to see the donations make their final destination.
"I come back every year because I've seen, first hand, the difference these meals mean to the children," she said Saturday. "We're providing a big help and it's rewarding."
This year, organizers also are raffling off a car, a 2018 Kia Niro XL donated by Gerald Kia of Naperville, to further boost fundraising. Raffle tickets are available for $25 each or five for $100 at feedtheneedillinois.org or on-site during the event. The winner will be drawn at the end of the packing event.
Volunteers were also asked to make a difference locally by bringing a food donation for the pantry at Loaves and Fishes Community Services.