Volunteers package 50K meals for Haiti

DOWNEY - Among a group of more than 500 young kids, teenagers and adults, 15-year-old Robert Elizarraras was one of the first to grab a bag and package a meal for a needy child on Saturday. Only after he took a break was he asked by a Downey High School teacher if he understood why he was doing service that day and why he was so excited. Robert explained that his purpose and excitement came from a deep understanding of gratitude and knowing that he was packaging meals that would feed children in Haiti.

On Saturday, April 6, more than 500 volunteers of all ages met at Downey High to package more than 50,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, an organization that provides meals for school feeding programs in third world countries.

The event was held in honor of Kiwanis One Day, an international day of service dedicated not only to bettering communities but also to providing children the meaningful learning experiences.

"I think we set the tone for our youth today," said Carol Wait, Lieutenant Governor of Division 13 for Kiwanis. "We provided the youth with an experience that helps build teamwork and instills positive values in their lives.

Volunteers were divided into groups to either package meals for Haiti, sort and box food for the Downey PTA H.E.L.P.S room, or participate in the Jog-A-Thon for children sponsored by Jacobs & Vega, PLC, with all funds raised going to Stop Hunger Now.

Kiwanis clubs in attendance included both Downey clubs, Downey, Bellflower, Santa Fe Springs, Huntington Park, Long Beach, Bixby Knolls, and Fullerton.

Kiwanis-sponsored youth clubs in attendance included, K-Kids of Gauldin Elementary School, East and Sussman middle school Builders Clubs, Key Clubs from different high schools in the region, Downey High School KIWIN'S and several Circle K college groups, who worked side-by-side with adults on Saturday. All these groups are sponsored by local chapters of Kiwanis International.

"We make a difference every day we can, but we choose one day to really show support for our community," said Alexander Gaytan, Kiwanis One Day coordinator for the Kiwanis Club of Downey. "Our goal was to teach young people to give back and serve their community here at home and across the globe. Modeling that for them and working with them was really a joy."

Overall, $12,500 were donated to Stop Hunger Now, more than 50,000 meals were packaged and sent to Haiti, thousands of food items and hygiene kits were donated to the Downey PTA H.E.L.P.S room and TLC, and over $500 was raised by children who participated in the Run to Stop Hunger Jog-A-Thon.

"I think it's really awesome that we got to show the little kids what you can do when you grow up and what a good and caring citizen should look like," said Stephanie Calzadias from Downey High School KIWIN'S.

********** Published: April 18, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 01