We can talk to our kids until we are blue in the face about the importance of helping others; but, these lessons never really sink in unless we find ways to put our values into practice.
There are many worthy service opportunities available throughout Lake County, but few that allow you to bring along young children. That’s why I was so grateful to learn about Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville. Here children as young as 5-years old are not only allowed but encouraged to volunteer. In fact, according to Mark Crea, the organization’s CEO, about half of their volunteers are kids, “So it’s literally kids feeding kids.”
Feed My Starving Children is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that ships nourishing, specially-formulated meals to starving children in nearly 70 countries around the world. A permanent packing site is located at 742 East Park Avenue in Libertyville. It is a Christian organization; however, families who follow different religious traditions (or none at all) should in no way feel alienated.
Volunteers are needed to hand-pack the meals which are shipped worldwide. Signing up is easy! It’s a perfect family or group project.
- Simply go to FSMC.org and click “Volunteer Registration” in the upper right hand corner
- Select “Permanent Site” to be taken to the Volunteer Registrations page
- From here select an option from the “Illinois Locations” drop-down menu to access available shifts at the Libertyville location
Each volunteer shift is only 2-hours long, and shifts in Libertyville are available throughout the day on Wednesday-Saturdays.
Please adhere to the age requirements when registering. While children as young as 5 may participate, all children in 2nd Grade and younger must have an adult counterpart with them (1:1 ratio) and everyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
What to Expect
Each shift begins with an orientation which will instruct you in the packing process. The only thing you really need to know beforehand is to leave the jewelry at home and wear closed-toe shoes. The orientation also includes a film that will put you in touch with the organizations’s mission. The film shares some scary statistics, but parents need not worry about any disturbing images of dying children that will scare young kids. The film is uplifting and will galvanize your party for the work ahead. My 6-year old son was able to connect with the child featured in the film and feels pride in being able to put a name and a face to a child that he was able to help.
There are several packing stations where you will form small assembly lines, typically consisting of 6 people at each station. You can come with a group, or come on your own. My son and I teamed up with other volunteers there to staff our station, “The Philippines.” All the stations are named for countries that Feed My Starving Children serves.
You will measure and scoop dry food such as rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin powder mix into packages that will be sealed and packed in boxes for shipping. Please remember that little ones aren’t always so precise. While you are there to provide your child with a service opportunity, don’t forget the big picture. All food is paid for by donations. Food that becomes spilled or spoiled is food that doesn’t reach the hungry children for which it was intended. Make sure young children are supervised and help them. If your child’s motor skills aren’t up to the task of scooping, there are plenty of jobs available such as weighing, packing boxes, or labeling that won’t put them in contact with the food.
The atmosphere during a volunteer shift is lively and energetic! Pop music plays in the background and stations compete with one another to pack the most boxes. Whenever you fill a whole box, your group yells a cheer! It makes the work fast-paced and fun, which is crucial when dealing with children. My guesstimate is that actual packing time is just a little over one hour. After packing is complete, you are given instructions for clean-up and then you are invited into the warehouse to bless the food with a group prayer. You are in no way required to participate in the prayer and may opt out if you wish.
Following the prayer, volunteers are asked to regroup for a final wrap-up. This is a wonderful time as they calculate how much food has been packed for shipping and it’s a great way for children to understand the impact of their contribution. My son proudly tells people that he helped feed 100 children for a full year!
The cost of one box of food is about $50 and each box of food can feed a child for seven months. All food is paid for by donations, so you may wish to provide a monetary donation along with your contribution of time. If a monetary donation is not in your budget, you won’t feel coerced to donate. I do encourage you to give what you can, especially if you appreciate the opportunity it has given your family to do something meaningful with each other. A movie with your family costs about $10 per person, but won’t give you the same sort of quality time you will experience together at Feed My Starving Children.
If you have folks on your holiday gift list you still need gifts for, take some time to peruse their marketplace which has wonderful gift items at various price points. Many of these items are hand-crafted by artisans from the countries served by Feed My Starving Children. Each item tells you just how many meals its purchase can provide children in need.
The holidays are a time when people like to talk about the “spirit of giving” but need knows no season. Consider giving your time and resources to Feed My Starving Children with your family year-round.
Feed My Starving Children ~ Libertyville
742 East Park Avenue (Hwy 176)
Learn more about Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville and Register to Volunteer