In one day, hundreds of volunteers at Pleasant Gardens Elementary packed more than 100,000 meals that will be sent to the hungry in Nicaragua.

“It turned out to be phenomenal,” said organizer Chip Cross to The McDowell News.

The special packing of meals took place Saturday in the school’s gym. When it was over, 106,000 meals had been put together. Cross said he had 550 volunteer slots filled for this event.

“Initially, the recruitment of volunteers was behind schedule, but God provided in a big way,” said Cross in a prepared statement.

Overall, 25 groups from the local community participated and organizers had the following number of volunteers in each time slot:

• Set-up: 7 to 9 a.m. – 25

• First shift packing: 9 to 11:15 a.m. – 200

• Second shift packing: 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. – 150

• Third shift packing: 2 to 4:15 p.m. – 150

• Cleanup: 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. - 25

“A total of 550 volunteer time slots were filled and this does not count an additional eight volunteers from Servants with a Heart who were on site all day and 10 volunteers who assisted with parking, sign-ups, and being available as needed all day,” said Cross.

He added P.G. Elementary School had an ideal layout for the food packing day. As volunteers came in, they were directed to the multipurpose room to watch a brief training video. Following the training, volunteers entered the adjoining gym to pack the food. After their packing shift had been completed, volunteers exited the school from the back of the gym, which enabled the organizers to have a one-way flow of volunteers through the building throughout the day.

Following are some of the groups that were represented: Pleasant Gardens Baptist Church, Glenwood Baptist Church, Grace Community Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Grace Baptist Church, Nebo Crossing, Liberty Freewill Baptist Church, Freedom Life Ministries, the Rotary Club of Marion, Southmountain Children’s Home, Melinda Zullo Girl Scout Troop, Diane Wright Girl Scout Troop, Old Fort Boy Scout Troop, McDowell Senior Center, East McDowell Middle School, McDowell Alternative Learning Center, McDowell Technical Community College students and staff, North Cove Elementary School, Pleasant Gardens Elementary School, McDowell High School ROTC, McDowell High School Peer Group Connection, McDowell High School Friends of Rachel, McDowell High School students and staff, McDowell Women’s Shelter and other community volunteers.

Cross added he knows there are some he might have left out and he hopes those people will understand.

“Everyone’s participation is greatly appreciated and would like to mention a few organizations who gave us a huge boost in volunteers,” he said in his prepared statement. “Glenwood Baptist Church provided 30 volunteers from their youth group, Pleasant Gardens Baptist had over 50 volunteers, various groups from McDowell High School provided over 60 volunteers, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had 75 volunteers and McDowell Early College filled close to 150 volunteer time slots. It was a true community effort.”

Cross said to The McDowell News there were 3-year-olds coloring boxes for the food packing and senior citizens in wheelchairs helping out. “It was great to see all generations working together,” he added. “It was great to see people from all areas of the community working together.”

This event was inspired when three Baptist churches from McDowell County recently attended Fort Caswell in Oak Island. Since 1949, North Carolina Baptists have held youth camps at the facilities located there at historic fort, which is on the beach.

During that week, Pleasant Gardens Baptist had 26 while Glenwood Baptist had 46 and Grace Community Church had 103, making a total of 175 people from McDowell County at the camp. While staying there, they had an opportunity to pack food for those in need in Haiti.

“Following the report of our trip to our church at Pleasant Gardens Baptist, our church committed to packing 100,000 meals to be sent to Nicaragua,” said Cross in a previous interview.

Almost two years ago, the church received a large donation from an anonymous person to the mission fund. The money for these meals was provided from the earnings from the mission fund principal. This project would not have been possible at this time without the generous donation that was made to missions and the effective management of this fund

A typical meal like the ones that were packed consists of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and vitamins. One cup will sustain a child for a day even though it is a small serving.

“Our church partnered with the same organization that worked with Caswell, Servants with a Heart, located in Charlotte,” said Cross in his prepared statement. He added this organization was very efficient and professional.

For more information, you can visit their web site,

“Thanks again to everyone who participated,” he said in his prepared statement. “Please pray for this food as it goes out and for those who will be receiving it; that it will nourish their bodies and also their souls knowing that it came from the Lord through His people.”

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