JustServe volunteers in the Chicago, Illinois, area adapted a Church building to become an approved food processing facility — and then packaged more than 85,000 meals for children in need.
Hundreds of children in Haiti and the Philippines have now received those meals, thanks to the collaboration between JustServe and the non-profit organization Feed My Starving Children. The project took fundraising, weeks of planning and training, and hundreds of volunteers working long hours over three days in December.
The effort began when a member of the Schaumburg Illinois Stake reached out to the area JustServe specialists with the idea of setting up a mobile unit from Feed My Starving Children. Then those specialists, Jairo and Martha Mejia, brought the stake leadership on board and called three leaders to help coordinate everything.
“Checking HVAC filters, the temperature of the room, the bathrooms, putting the hand-washing stations in — many many details,” said Jairo Mejia. “One of the challenges was that we needed to enter a forklift into the building. So one of the doors had to be removed.”
Everything had to be done according to food handling safety requirements, and they took additional precautions because of COVID-19.
The Schaumburg Illinois Stake center was transformed. But they also needed 450 volunteers. The Mejias listed the project on JustServe.org in English and in Spanish, shared it with the ward councils and put it on social media. Within three days, registration was filled.
“The power of the JustServe platform is amazing,” said Jairo Mejia. “The majority of people who helped were not members of the Church, it was the community. We had other churches, individuals, high schools, football teams, you name it.”
From Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 9-11, those hundreds of volunteers took turns unloading, setting up, packing meals, loading and then cleaning up and taking down everything again to be ready for church services on Sunday.
Martha Mejia said the high schoolers were happy to be helping during their assigned shift. “The feeling was, we are doing this because some kids are going to receive it. It will be life for the kids. So they were really happy. It was uplifting for the high schoolers.”
Each group started their work with a prayer, and missionaries served alongside people they were teaching. A special table accommodated those with disabilities.
“It was a time of happiness really,” said Jairo Mejia. “We could see the joy from people serving. And at the end, you made new friends in an hour. You had a new group of friends. We took pictures with everyone together, and it was like we had known each other for a long time.”
The Mejias said Feed My Starving Children emailed them later to let them know when the food packs arrived in Haiti and the Philippines. The group explained that 234 children would be fed for a year because of the project.
“The mobile units, you can pack a lot of meals,” said Jairo Mejia. “If you go there, to Feed My Starving Children, you do a fraction of what they do every day. But when you bring one of these mobile units, you can do it on a big scale.”
The Mejias said the feedback was so positive, they have already secured the funding to do it again next December.