Fighting hunger locally and globally
For the fourth year in a row, the Grand Avenue Elementary School gymnasium will transform into a bustling, noisy, harried room full of apron-wearing, hair-netted and latex-gloved volunteers rushing to pack as many Manna Pack rice food mixtures as possible.
It’s the Sauk Prairie version of a three-day-long Feed My Starving Children national campaign to fight hunger, which last year packed its millionth meal in the three years the 6:8 organization’s Sauk Prairie Against Hunger program has sponsored it.
The event starts Oct. 22 and goes through Oct. 24.
The food packs are shipped overseas to countries in which food is often scarce. The annual event has so far resulted in 1,032,148 meals shipped overseas, and shared 48,909 pounds of food with the Sauk Prairie Food Pantry.
The event typically draws more than 1,200 volunteers from Thursday at 9:30 a.m. through Saturday 1 p.m.
“Sauk Prairie Against Hunger’s mission is raising awareness that there are hungry people locally and around the world,” 6:8 co-director John Ramthun said.
During the event, groups compete in a can creation contest in which participants make artistic statues made of cans of food that are given to the food pantry.
Director Carol Gagnon said it’s a major event for the pantry as the holiday season approaches and demand for help increases. “We see a lot more families between September and December,” Gagnon said. “That’s our holiday season and it kicks off with the homecoming parade when the National Honor Society collects cans of food. That’s the first reminder to the community while other places start their food drives. The can creation event gets us through until those other deliveries come in.”
Some food packs from the Feed My Starving Children event are also contributed to the pantry.
“You just add boiling water and you have a complete meal of good nutrition,” Gagnon said.
The food pantry isn’t just about providing food, though. Last year, along with the can creation sculptures, came a giant pyramid of 3,000 rolls of toilet paper.
“Instead of giving out one roll per month, we gave out 12 rolls,” Gagnon said. “When patrons came through our line, they were giving me hugs. It’s a huge need.”
She said Village Family Dental employees are spending the month of October wearing Sauk Prairie Against Hunger buttons and are donating tooth brushes.
“That’s really appreciated,” Gagnon said. “Think about the dental bills they’re helping to save with those.”
Gagnon said the proceeds from the Prairie du Sac Farmers Market every summer is also a big help. Bake sales are held there, with all proceeds going to the food pantry.
Sue and Fritz Dohm are among the organizers of the farmers market. This year, the Dohms donated $2,000 to the pantry.
“All the proceeds from our vegetable table go to the Food Pantry,” Sue Dohm said. “It’s heart-breaking when we see kids in line with their parents waiting to get their food at the pantry.”
She will make pies for a bake sale that goes on outside the gymnasium during the food pack event. She spends hours in her own kitchen baking, with the crust made from scratch and fresh apples.
“Sure it’s hard work, but I enjoy doing it,” she said. “It’s for such a good cause.”
Ramthun said the food pack event can get emotional when representatives of the Feed My Starving Children program show before-and-after photos of starving children in other countries that benefit from the food and become healthy.
“People are laughing and crying, but when all is said and done, they just fed 1,000 kids for a year who may otherwise have died,” Ramthun said. “That’s what they did for a weekend. The byproduct of having a good time is doing something so good. You can’t replace that.”
Celebrating the seasoned citizens
The 6:8 non-profit organization is known for fundraising for food that travels the globe, planning the Fire on the River celebration and mission trips to help build houses for the poor.
Now a new program under the 6:8 umbrella reaches out to the elderly in the Sauk Prairie community, called “Honoring our Elders.”
The program is headed by Shirley Kelter, a chaplain whose life’s work focuses on spiritual support for older citizens who may be home bound or in area care facilities.
Kelter said her work helps to complement and collaborate with the support given by area pastors to help reach out to senior citizens that might appreciate the extra time spent with them.
“It’s not about running errands or doing things, but offering companionship and support by listening to their life stories,” Kelter said. “I’d like to see us celebrate the treasure that the elderly folks are in our community. That’s the thrust behind getting this started.”
Kelter’s experience working with the elderly includes her work as a chaplain with Agrace Hospice in Madison and end-of-life issues.
But she said her work is more about the life journey than it is about a person’s particular religious beliefs.
“As a chaplain, my training is to work with all sorts of people,” Kelter said. “Even those who say they are not religious can benefit from spiritual support. A lot of what I do is just listening and affirming things in their lives. If you catch someone with anger or grudges, it’s to help bring healing and finding some peace.”
6:8 co-director John Ramthun said the organization added the program because they saw a need for helping the elderly members of the community.
“There was a gap in our ministry for the elderly,” Ramthun said. “We do such a good job in this community celebrating youth and the arts, but we wanted to also celebrate the elderly and the wisdom they have. We’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to the kids and families, but not really to the elderly. We fell in love with the idea of being of service to the elderly and celebrating them and honoring them.”
Kelter said the program includes visiting seniors who may be experiencing dementia or other memory loss conditions.
“Someone’s spirit always recognizes caring and kindness and love,” Kelter said. “To go see someone’s mother with advanced dementia and who doesn’t recognize their daughter, they will still recognize love. That may be the most important thing to them in their day.”
Kelter’s mission is not only to help those in the aging process, but to lend support to their family members at the same time in end-of-life matters.
She has two programs planned in March for both the elderly and their family members at St. John Lutheran Church.
The first is “Aging in God’s Grace,” on March 12, a retreat for people in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and even the 100s.
“It’s for those on the pilgrimage of life where aging can bring a host of challenges and loss, but also gifts and invitations from God, family, and community if we recognize them and open our hearts to receive them,” Kelter said.
The second retreat is on March 14 called “Replenishing Our Spirits: Adult Children Caregivers of Elderly Parents.”
“It’s a program for adult children who are offering care or support to their elderly parents or grandparents,” Kelter said. “Sometimes all you need to do is listen to that life story and ask what are you proud of and what marked you with joy or sorrow? Where did you find strength and courage? We can all learn from that.”
Betty Basarich, a Feed My Starving Children representative who works at a permanent food packing site in Libertyville, Illinois, shows the smiling face of a little boy in Haiti who nearly died until fed with the organization’s meals that more than 1,000 Sauk Prairie area volunteers helped pack and ship at Grand Avenue Elementary School on Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1.
A gymnasium full of volunteers fell silent Oct. 31 as Betty Basarich held up photos of a little boy in Haiti who had been near death from starvation.
Calling him Pierre, Basarich said when the Haitian boy was a year old, he weighed only 11 pounds.
He turns five this month, the Feed My Starving Children worker said as she held up another photo of Pierre, his face more full and smiling brightly.
“Pierre was taken to one of our medical clinics and he was diagnosed as being near the end of his life,” Basarich told the crowd of nearly 100 people. “So, he was given emergency treatment and fed our food."
Pierre helped to a put a face to the goals of the 6:8 organization's Feed My Starving Children food packing event at Grand Avenue Elementary School held Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1.
Basarich said Feed My Starving Children has also supplied what’s known as Potato-D and Potato-W mixtures that have helped Ebola-afflicted Liberia address symptoms from the disease.
The event surpassed its goal of packing 350,000 meals by more than 31,000.
John Ramthun, co-director of the 6:8 organization said the 1,200-plus volunteers completed more meals than the group had raised money for.
Donations of $77,00 left the group in the red by $7,000 for the large number of prepared meals.
On Nov. 3, Culver's raised a challenge to area businesses to chip in and donate. Whatever is donated, Culver's will match it dollar for dollar, up to $3,500.
“That’s really valuable and to know a community our size is feeding that many people, Ramthun said. "The event couldn’t be this big without the whole community supporting it.”
The 6:8 group packed its millionth meal in the three years it has hosted the event.
In addition to the food packing for other less fortunate countries, the event brought in 8,096 cans weighing 3,515 pounds for the Sauk Prairie Food Pantry.
"Our mission at 6:8 is feeding people locally and gloabally," Ramthun said.
For the third year, Mueller’s Sports Medicine took first place in the Can Creation contest in which groups make artwork using canned goods.
Mueller’s made a Jack-o-Lantern out of cans. Merrimac Charter School came in second with its food fairy can structure.
Ramthun said other communities joined in this year, with churches in Lodi, Baraboo and Madison sending several volunteers.
However, most of the volunteers were from the Sauk Prairie area, with many of them volunteering for their third time, and even working through multiple packing sessions.
Les Muller of Frito Lay came from Rockford, Illinois to help pack boxes with other Frito Lay employees. He said his community observed Halloween a week early, so he had the time to spare.
“I love kids and I love doing this kind of stuff,” Muller said.
Kim Peck of Prairie du Sac also works for Frito Lay. He’s volunteered for the event all three years.
“I love the lord and I love these kids, and anything I can do to help is kind of what he wants us to do,” Peck said. “It just makes you feel good.”
It was the first food packing event for Christina Brotherton of Prairie du Sac, who volunteered with her husband and son.
“We thought it would be a fun activity for the family,” Brotherton said. “To think you’re feeding kids, it’s even better.”
Jada Burch, 7, her brother Rylan, 6, and their grandmother Shirley Slaney volunteered for their second packing shift of the day.
“I want to do this for a long time,” Jada said.
Last year, Danny Pyne with the Feed My Starving Children organization of Chicago, showed local Sauk Prairie Against Hunger volunteers how to package meals that will be shipped around the world.
How to help
To volunteer for the food packing event, contact John or Sarah Ramthun at 608-658-4700, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the 6:8 Making Service Personal website at www.makingservicepersonal.org
October may be the busiest month of the year for organizers of the Sauk Prairie Against Hunger program, but the group’s efforts in providing food to low income families goes on all year.
Sauk Prairie Against Hunger is operated as part of the 6:8 Making Service Personal organization.
The group is looking for volunteers to help with its annual packing event that provides food to the Sauk Prairie Area Food Pantry and sends packs of food items to under developed countries experiencing food shortages.
This year, 1,500 volunteers are needed Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1 for the Feed My Starving Children food packing event at Grand Avenue Elementary School. The group plans to pack 350,000 meals to be shipped around the world.
Last year, more than over 1,000 volunteers packed 217,000 meals, and the goal this year is 1,500 volunteers who work a two-hour shift packing the food.
During that same weekend, a Can Creation food drive will be held in which local groups use canned food products to create artistic displays. The displays are judged and their creators are awarded prizes in categories of artistic creativity of display, total number of items and total weight.
6:8 co-executive director John Ramthun said 5,000 pounds of food was collected last year at this time, and the goal this year is 6,000 pounds, all of which will be donated to the Sauk Prairie Area Food Pantry.
Ramthun said the food packing weekens is a big part of the group’s activities, but there is much more work that goes on year-round to help feed families in the Sauk Prairie School District.
“Our core team meets weekly throughout the year helping to feed people locally and globally,” “It’s a year round adventure,” Ramthun said. “Four years ago we sponsored 30 families. Now we sponsor 110 families each school break.”
The group works with the school district to determine families with the greatest need and four times per year gives out backpacks of food items and gift certificates for both the Piggly Wiggly in Sauk City and Sentry Foods and Wyttenbach Meats in Prairie du Sac.
Ramthun said the backpack is funded entirely by $77,000 in annual donations to the group. So far this year, the effort has raised more than $62,500 toward that goal.
The group also plants a garden of vegetables at St. Johns Lutheran Church and holds food and donation events throughout the year to meet its goal of reducing hunger in the local area and globally.
Written by Cheryl Horne, For the Catholic Herald
Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
MADISON -- In 2012 several parishes banded together with the Catholic Multicultural Center, Kids Against Hunger, as well as the organization 6:8 Making Service Personal and made a plan.
The plan, called Feed My Sheep, was to invite people from local Catholic parishes to donate toward building 25,000 meals for people in need in the Madison area and throughout the world. Each meal only cost a quarter, yet 25,000 meals sounded like a lot of quarters . . . and it was.
Yet that year we blew the goal out of the water and raised money and had enough volunteers to make over 61,000 meals.
Reaching a new goal
So, when it came time to plan for the 2013 Feed My Sheep event, we decided to dream bigger. This year the goal was an unprecedented 100,000 meals.
And again, we exceeded the goal.
At the end of the day there were 100,872 meals prepared, boxed, and ready to be taken to wherever they were needed.
Together people from the Catholic Multicultural Center as well as Good Shepherd, Our Lady Queen of Peace, St. Bernard in Middleton, St. Maria Goretti, St. Martin, St. Peter, and St. Thomas Aquinas Parishes raised the money and the volunteer power to exceed the goal. Coordinated by 6:8 Making Service Personal, they responded to Jesus’ call in the Gospel of John to “Feed My Sheep.”
A personal approach
The day was different from the year before in another way as well. Many of the volunteers enjoyed lunch with the guests at the Catholic Multicultural Center at the beginning of the work day.
Sharing a meal together, those who had come for food and fellowship as well as those who had come to serve, helped to give the day a more personal approach.
‘Who is my neighbor?’
We answered the question around the lunch tables we shared that day. And we answered it repeatedly as bag after bag and box after box was filled with food for people in need across the globe.
While much of the food will remain in Madison (including the food pantries at the Catholic Multicultural Center and St. Vincent DePaul as well as Salvation Army and the Sauk Prairie Food Pantry), a good portion of the food is headed toward a school in Nicaragua.
Preaching the Gospel
Finally, at the end of the long day, with over 100,800 meals prepared for those in need, the day, as it had the year before, culminated in Mass.
Msgr. Ken Fiedler, pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, said Mass at the Catholic Multicultural Center for everyone who wanted to join. Many from earlier shifts returned and many (still in their hairnets) came upstairs after the final shift to pray together.
Monsignor Ken’s homily featured the words most often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi in honor of Pope Francis: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
“Today,” said Monsignor Ken, “you have preached the Gospel.”
Feed My Sheep
Plans are already underway for Feed My Sheep 2014, so mark your calendars for Saturday, April 5. Talk with your parish leadership (and if your parish wants to join the team for the first time, contact 6:8, Making Service Personal), talk with your family, talk with your friends, save your quarters, and come join us.
For more information about Feed My Sheep last year, this year, or next year, go to the 6:8 Making Service Personal Web site at http://www.makingserviceperson al.org
You may send e-mail inquiries to email@example.com
Cheryl Horne is the director of youth ministry at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison.
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff
Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
Last weekend in Madison, more than 100,000 meals were packed for hungry people at home and around the world.
A good number of the meals are going to children. Many of the meals were packed by children.
Saturday, March 16, was the second annual Lenten “Feed My Sheep” food-packing day at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) in Madison.
The driving force behind the event is “6:8,” a group based out of Prairie du Sac that spearheaded a fundraising event and brought the money needed for the 100,000 meals. Last year, the group raised enough money to package more than 68,000 meals.
The executive directors of 6:8 are the husband and wife team of John and Sarah Ramthun.
As volunteers, including many children of all ages, poured into the chapel at the CMC for orientation, John shared the message of 6:8: “We desire to transform communities by making service personal,” said John.
“To really see that there is such a need in our society, and out community, more people working together, and it’s so easy to be isolated in our careers and family and sometimes we lose track of what it really means to be human.”
The task ahead
To put numbers and faces to the reality of hunger in the world, volunteers from Kids Against Hunger in Rock County shared some facts with the soon-to-be food-packers.
While some of the meals will stay in the Madison area, many of them will go to a school in Nicaragua. Volunteers told stories how some kids in the Central American country have to begin their days in a dump, looking for items to trade or sell in order to have food. The meals shipped there will go to a school started by a Catholic priest. School attendance is reportedly higher when meals are provided for the children.
The Rock County chapter of Kids Against Hunger helps provide the meals for packaging.
The total cost of one meal is a quarter. It contains a simple combination of rice, soy, vegetables, and a chicken flavoring. The flavoring is actually vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Packaging the food
After the volunteers watched a brief training video on how to package the meals, it was time to put on the hairnets and gloves.
Kids were the backbone of the operation as many parents brought their children along to help and also Confirmation groups provided their time and talent.
Almost two-dozen assembly lines were in action packaging the meals.
Some volunteers poured the ingredients into a bag; others weighed the bag and sealed them up. A favorite job of the smallest helpers was stacking the bags at the end of the table to make sure the output was at the necessary 36 bags to put in one box.
When a box was filled, the whole room celebrated. Everyone at the table yelled, “Do you love me?” Everyone responded with “Feed my sheep!”
Each table yelled “Do you love me?” around eight times per shift. That adds up to more than 1,700 meals packaged by each volunteer group.
For most volunteers, the time went by fast, especially once the reality sets in that the groups are really “making service personal.” The work being done will help people who are hungry, many of them the same age as the young volunteers.
Feeding the sheep
At least 55 boxes of food, or more than 12,000 meals, will go to the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Madison, while 25,000 meals will help the hungry kids in Nicaragua.
“We’re making a difference, we’re not just having a good time, we’re impacting the world, which is kind of amazing,” said Ramthun.
He expressed a hope of someday packaging one million meals in a weekend. No doubt a lofty goal, but the potential is there.
November 21, 2012 9:45 am • By Jeremiah Tucker, Sauk Prairie Eagle
What began as a modest effort to send food home with students from needy families in the Sauk Prairie Area School District has doubled in recent years, offering more food to more families more often.
Susan Baumann-Duren, a social worker and homeless coordinator for the Sauk Prairie School District, said she used to send food home to a few families during school breaks, a time when low-income students lose access to free breakfasts and lunches, but the program was informal and only when she had food on hand.
Since John and Sarah Ramthun with the local non-profit 6:8 got involved, the program has expanded. Four times a year Baumann-Duren ensures the food and donations raised by the Ramthuns are sent home with students at the beginning of Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring and summer breaks.
Baumann-Duren said this year there are 52 homeless students in the school district on Friday.
This year students from 70 families—up from around 25 just a few years ago—received a bag containing food, squash from Green Thumb Farms in Prairie du Sac, a $20 gift card accepted at local grocery stores and a coupon for 1 ½ pounds of meat from Wyttenbach’s Meat Market.
The words “thank you” simply do not do justice to how we, the committee of Sauk Prairie Community MobilePack, feel about the huge level of support we received in accomplishing our mission to pack meals with Feed My Starving Children. As you know, we packed almost 164,000 meals and met our goal to raise $33,000 to cover the cost of those meals — all accomplished in just six months of planning and fundraising. And we collected almost 1,300 pounds of food for the Sauk Prairie Food Pantry. Thank you!
Our supporters are too numerous to list, and many of whom the names we do not even know. We received support from individuals, businesses, schools, nonprofit groups, churches, families, community organizations. We were overwhelmed both with the intangible support in encouraging our team members and our mission as well as those who took the initiative to share the mission with others simply by talking about it, hanging up posters, publishing articles and distributing fliers.
In more tangible ways, we acknowledge and sincerely appreciate your donations of money, time and resources. For example, perhaps you visited one of our bake sales at the Farmers Market, helped us paint the Dohm house or patronized our food booth at the Polka Fest or at the Cow Chip Festival; or you dropped money in our buckets at the local parades or in cans around town, purchased lemonade at a stand or filled money tubes with quarters with your youth group or family; or you raised money for FMSC or collected canned goods for the local food pantry at your school or business, provided loaned items such as tables, a freezer, a tent, coolers, a grill, or one of the various other items we needed to hold our events; or perhaps you donated food ingredients or baked goods that we could sell for fundraising or that nourished our tireless volunteers. Maybe you were one of more than 700 volunteers who showed up at our packing event Oct. 25-27 at Grand Avenue Elementary School. Or maybe you helped us as we served brats, walking tacos, loaded baked potatoes, pie slices and baked goods, or by washing cars.
Without the monetary donations of all sizes, this could never have happened — you displayed your generosity and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This community showed what it can do when people come together, and we continue to be amazed. We know we can all do it again — that was evident in the evaluation forms completed by each volunteer at our event and in the funds that we continue to collect.
Many of you want not only to pack again for Feed My Starving Children, but also want to assist in the planning. Please consider coming to our 2013 Event Planning Rally to be held in the Community Room at the Ruth Culver Library in Prairie du Sac from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27. We are accepting donations to be applied to our next packing event, and those checks can be sent to 6:8 Sauk Prairie Community MobilePack at 485 Prairie St., Prairie du Sac, WI 53578. Thank you, Sauk Prairie!
on behalf of Sauk Prairie Community MobilePack for Feed My Starving Children
Initially, what is most impressive are the numbers.
- $33,000 raised in less than six months
- 163,728 meals packed
- 448 children who won’t go hungry for one year.
That is what local Sauk Prairie volunteers working with the Christian nonprofit organization Feed My Starving Children achieved last week. Over three days, an organizer said, hundreds of people packed the gymnasium at Grand Avenue Elementary School to put together meal packs that will go overseas to missionaries and non-governmental organizations who will distribute them to starving children in impoverished areas.
Addressing a group of more than 100 volunteers before one of the packing sessions on Friday, Carrie Bishop, a worker with the Twin Cities-based Feed My Starving Children, held up a picture of an emaciated young boy named Omar.
She asked the group what they saw, and children in the audience pointed out that Omar was losing his hair and his ribs were showing.
Omar was 8 years old and weighed 19 pounds.
“You wish you could anything in the world to take care of him,” Bishop said.
Then she showed a picture of him 16 days after he received MannaPacks — a combination of rice, soy nuggets, vitamin-and-nutrient rich flavoring and dehydrated vegetables that can be prepared with boiling water — like the ones the group was about to assemble.
In that picture, Omar was developing a bit of belly, and in the final picture she showed of Omar six months later, he looked like a normal, healthy boy with a full head of hair.
“This Omar has a future,” Bishop said.
Bishop said that 18,000 children die of starvation every day — one every five seconds — but the food provided by Feed My Starving Children can make a difference.
Jackie Bascom helped coordinate the local fundraising that made the Sauk Prairie packing event for Feed My Starving Children possible after seeing a similar presentation. She said most of the fundraising was done through contacting people and securing single donations.
In conjunction with the event, the organizers also hosted a fundraiser for the Sauk Prairie Area Food Pantry collecting 1,299 pounds of non-perishable food and paper products.
Overall, Bascom said the event was a success, and she hopes to do another one soon.
“Everyone left with just this big smile on their faces,” she said. “It was amazing.”