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Gainesville First United Methodist leads congregation in annual Day of Service
Event fosters community ties for volunteers while helping those in need
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Gainesville First United Methodist Church member Myra Harris takes a turn measuring food packages Saturday to ensure the weights are correct. - photo by Alexander Popp

Gainesville First United Methodist held its 10th annual Great Day of Service on Saturday, completing over 40 different service projects from walking dogs to sewing gowns for hospice patients.

Great Day of Service co-chairwoman Janice Rogers explained that this yearly event is much more than a series of projects in the community, putting lessons and values learned during church services into practice, and fostering positive relationships between the church and the community.

“This great day benefits not only the agencies but the volunteers. Members of our congregation get to meet new folks and work together toward a common goal.” Rogers said. “You get so much more from giving your time, talents and presence.”

Saturday, more than 400 volunteers worked hand in hand with a number of Hall County organizations, sorting food and painting bowls for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, helping construction efforts for Habitat for Humanity, painting bathroom areas at the Hall County Senior Center, and aiding the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia by playing with some of the adoptable pets.

But of all of the events, the largest and most easily quantifiable was held at Gainesville First United Methodist itself, where volunteers created more than 25,000 prepackaged meals that will be distributed to impoverished countries worldwide by nonprofit Stop Hunger Now.  

The church has been working with Stop Hunger Now for five years. Together they have created more than 90,000 meals for impoverished and starving people in places like Haiti, Uganda and Belize.

According to event coordinator Kathy Lamon, this event is one of the most effective done by the church, allowing people of all ages to participate to create something huge.

The meals created by Stop Hunger Now and communities all over the United States, can be thought of as a healthier and nutritious version of a freeze-dried meal, easily prepared and modified to fit local tastes, and containing all of the nutrients necessary for a person to survive.

“It really tastes good,” said Lamon “If you have ever had ramen noodles, it’s like that.”

Stop Hunger Now’s mission is to put the food into programs with both immediate and long term emphasises. Members found the meals they create could be used as leverage in areas with poor educational practices, driving children back to school every day for an education and a hot meal.

“In some cases, that’s the only meal they will eat all day,” said Stop Hunger Now Program Manager Michael Ashley. Ashley explained that adding the meal program to schools made a drastic change in the level of attendance, bringing back children who would normally be working a job or begging.  

Stop Hunger Now isn’t affiliated with any religious organization. However, since its beginnings in 1998, it has worked with all types of faith-based and community organizations across the United States and the world.

Today Stop Hunger Now provides food to over 65 countries across the globe. To find out more about Stop Hunger Now and how to become involved, visit them on the web at www.stophungernow.org.

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