Area youth energize local canning project

Authored by Jim Langham on Jan 28, 2013

Madison Kloepper bubbled with enthusiasm this past weekend as she assisted with the Mennonite Central Committee’s meat packing project for the first time.
Many area youth joined veteran meat packers who labeled cans for shipment to those in need through the Central Committee’s distribution program. In 2012, 389,114 cans were divided between Bosnia, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Columbia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, North Korea, Serbia, Ukraine and isolated parts of the United States.
Jeff Lehman, who along with his wife, Sondra, heads up the local project, said that volunteers come to the First Mennonite Church in shifts of approximately 30-40 people each stint.
Lehman especially praised local youth who have come as part of service projects for FFA , church youth groups and school organizations from South Adams and Adams Central.
Many young people, like Kloepper, can connect the dots between preparing the cans for shipping to countries with need because of their own involvement with mission trips to Haiti, Africa and other places.
“I went to Haiti last summer and saw starving people,” said Kloepper. “They asked us for food, but because of regulations, we couldn’t give it to them. I saw the need there; it made my heart hurt.
“This is my first year for doing this,” said Kloepper. “I’m really glad I came to help our church do this. I plan to help every year. It really means a lot to help the church give food to people where there is need. This is all for God; we are doing this for Him.”
“It is neat to help people in different countries and help them have better lives,” noted Riley Liechty. “I hope that they will get to know God through this. It is really neat to do this. It makes me feel blessed for what I have.”
“I feel like this is something I can do here that can impact the whole world,” commented Lindsey Bluhm. “It makes me happy to think that I am impacting the world somehow. I try to visualize the face of some child somewhere saying, ‘thank you.’” Maria Liechty, a fifth grader, said that it is fun for her to help with the project.
“It’s really a good thing to help kids that are starving,” said Liechty.
Stephanie Bluhm, now a pre-school teacher at the Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren, said that she especially enjoys hearing the stories of experienced volunteers who know of some of the personal results from the distribution.
“Every once in a while, someone will tell a story about how they heard about how someone really appreciated the project,” observed Bluhm. “I like to hear the more experienced volunteers talk about the changes made over the years to the way that the cans are processed.”
Others, like Katie Bluhm, have helped every year since she volunteered with the FFA in the sixth grade.
Lehman said that it is refreshing to have area youth get involved and find understanding in what all is going on with the project.
“I’ve been here 30 years,” said Lehman. “A lot of older people can’t do this anymore or they have passed on. My generation is doing this now; it means a lot to see that another generation is coming on to learn about this and what we do.”
“I have been back every year. I go to church here; I have done this for a community project,” said Bluhm. “It’s amazing how many meals are provided through each can. I’m sure we can’t realize how many meals we are shipping out of here.”
Like many other youth, Alyssa Drennen was volunteering as a part of an FFA project. She admitted that she never realized how many people could be helped through the outreach project.
“It means a lot to help people that can't afford stuff,” observed Drennen. “I hope that this will help them have a better life than they have.”
One of the things that Jamey Allen likes about the project is meeting new friends and working together with the other volunteers. She noted that the sense of community camaraderie is important to her.
“It is something I do because it makes me feel good to help others,” observed Allen. “It amazes me how we can do something so small and it helps so many people in an awesome way.”

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