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Volunteers, money needed to aid Haiti earthquake victims

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

An international group, focusing on children in need, has 300,000 meals ready to send to earthquake victims in Haiti.

However, the group needs $75,000, and hundreds of volunteers to get the food packaged, and shipped to the island nation.

"We're feeding about 4,000 people per day there now," said Joe Durham, director of Ministry Partnerships for New Directions International's Atlanta office. The agency is sponsoring the Feed the Hunger project in conjunction with the group, Feed My Starving Children.

"We're hoping to involve 1,200 to 1,500 volunteers from churches and businesses in the Atlanta area," said Durham, who lives in McDonough.

The volunteers, Durham said, are needed for a massive Pack-A-Thon scheduled for Sept. 9-11, at the Noonday Baptist Church in Kennesaw. "Hopefully, half of them will come from the south side of Atlanta, and half will come from the north side of Atlanta.

"We're comfortable that we'll have 40 to 50 churches involved, and now, we'd like to get some businesses to come on board, too," Durham said.

"We are thankful for the commitments we've received, and we have been in discussions with several churches in Henry and Clayton county areas," he added.

Fairview Baptist in Jonesboro, along with Gateway Ministries in Morrow, have said they plan to support the feed the Pack-A-Thon project, said Durham.

In Henry County, churches which have pledged their support, include Graceway Church in Hampton, along with Salem Baptist Church and Bethany Baptist Church, in McDonough.

Chuck Sheppard, associate pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, plans to lead a team of volunteers from his church to take part in the packing.

"We may not be able to go [to Haiti], but we can participate in the Pack-a-Thon, and still have a tremendous impact on their lives," said Sheppard.

"It's $1,000 to $1,600 go on a trip to Haiti, or to go someplace and do a mission trip ... but here, they can stay at home, they have a hands-on project that they know is going to touch the life of a child," Durham added.

The Pack-A-Thon effort in the Atlanta area is a first here for New Directions International, which is based in Burlington, N.C., said Durham.

According to Durham, the Pack-a-Thon will begin with a 15-minute orientation session, followed by multiple, two-hour shifts for volunteers to pack food.

"We're going to have about 150 to 180 people at each shift, and we're doing nine shifts over three days," he said. "We're in the process, now, of contacting churches and businesses, and letting them know the time slots that we have available."

Durham said he hopes the churches and businesses will develop teams of about 15 people, who will work to help donate about $1,000 each toward reaching the $75,000 goal.

"If we have 400 people involved, it's about $67 a person," he said.

The packages of food that are ready for shipment, he said, include rice, soy products and vegetables, which are designed to improve Haitian children's food options.

"It's scientifically formulated by Feed My Starving Children," Durham said. "It gives the body all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that it needs to be able to rebuild."

New Directions International, added Durham, has sent food in the past to countries including Kenya and India. "By the end of the year, we will have sent over a million meals to Haiti," said Durham.

For more information about the Pack-a-Thon, call Joe Durham, at (678) 618-1759, e-mail joe@newdirections.org, or visit www.feedthehunger.org.