by Dru Murray & Clairissa Cooper, Contributing Writers
While a DJ keeps a steady beat pumping for a group of hundreds below, yelps and cheers erupt intermittently. The energy is palpable and it’s a struggle not to get caught up in the excitement. But, it isn’t a scene from a dance club. It’s Flower Mound’s RockPointe Church.
RockPointe Church puts the party in packing — meal packing, that is.
“Our tagline is: It’s the most fun you can have in a hair net,” joked RockPointe Church marriage pastor Brian Sanders.
The church’s semi-annual Feed the Hunger pack-a-thon hosts 1,400 volunteers over the course of four days Nov. 15–18. By weekend’s end, 250,000 meals will have been measured, scooped, packed, sealed, boxed and loaded onto an 18-wheeler truck, ready to distribute.
Each pack offers six servings of a nutrient-dense meal designed to help malnourished children and families.
RockPointe Church has worked in partnership with Feed the Hunger, an evangelical mission organization, for eight years, hosting meal pack-a-thons every spring and fall. November’s event reached a significant milestone– the church packed its three millionth meal.
This high-energy pack-a-thon was particularly aimed at helping nearby neighbors suffering from hunger, due to Hurricane Harvey; as well as people from such diverse locales as Iraq, Haiti, Jamaica, Israel, Kenya and Kentucky.
Volunteers of various ages donned hair nets and set to work. But, the event was not all work—fun was had, too.
“Feed the Hunger really is a great opportunity to come together to help those in need both spiritually and physically,” said Sanders. “About 50-percent of the volunteers at our twice-yearly packs are not members of our church.”
A large group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Flower Mound were part of the interfaith service, working in succession to scoop pasta, plus add vitamins, dehydrated vegetables and seasonings to the packages.
“At a time when things are so divisive in our country, this type of service opportunity allows us to leave it all at the door,” said volunteer Debbie Dahl. “It doesn’t matter what faith– or lack thereof– economic status, or race, we all gather to do something beneficial and Christ-like. It’s a great feeling of unity. We’re all from different backgrounds coming together to help people in their time of need.”
Volunteers help the hungry while attending the pack-a-thon, and can also learn about the many missions RockPointe Church is involved in by accessing information presented in a lobby area.
“We have 26 local and global partners we partner with and support,” said Missions Coordinator Brandi Miller. “As much as I know about our missions, this display gives visitors a better idea of what they do.”
Randy Riggins, RockPointe’s Missions Pastor, echoed Miller’s sentiment, stating, “We felt like it was good for everyone to see what we do.”
Some of the local ministries represented were: an Angel Tree for needy students at Vickery Elementary School in Flower Mound; the Chin Community Ministry for Chin refugees of Lewisville; and, the Men of Nehemiah, which benefits South Dallas men who are homeless and/or formerly incarcerated.
Missionaries from RockPointe who now serve in Romania and Canada’s Vancouver were flown in to distribute the information about their services and tell interesting stories about their missions.
Donations help pay for the meals assembled at the pack-a-thons; by Saturday’s first shift, the total stood at $25,096.
Entire families, some with younger family members, turned out; as did the members of Girl Scout Troop 7556 of Flower Mound.
Reasons volunteers came included: “I like the atmosphere of giving . . .” and “I like helping people hurt by natural disasters.”
In the crowded packing room, volunteers chose where the meals they were packing would end up—Romania, Haiti, Belize, China, Canada and Cuba, among others.
Before they started the packing, volunteers received instructions from Feed the Hunger’s Jim Hurley of Burlington, N.C. He began working for Feed the Hunger eight years ago, a ministry now in its 50th year. According to Hurley, Feed the Hunger has distributed 17 million meals. Hurley said that although Feed the Hunger is an aid-and-relief agency, it provides spiritual support, too.
One of his first questions was to ask the enthusiastic participants for a show of hands from those who had already worked in previous packs. Approximately half had not done so before, but a fair number had attended three and some even four previously.
To warm up, everyone joined in a ‘RockPointe wave’ that ran from one part of the room to the other. They also cheered when their table finished filling a box with meals.
RockPointe Church stands out amid the other churches and organizations who pack for Feed the Hunger. Victims of this year’s devastating hurricanes were treated to 50,000 meals that began at RockPointe. Following Hurricane Harvey, residents of Beaumont, Texas, consumed four pallets of meals, while more than 17,000 RockPointe-packed meals were flown by Missionary Flights International to victims struck hard by Hurricane Maria in the Turks and Caicos.
“RockPointe is unusual in that they do two packs per year, meaning they pack about 500,000 meals per year,” said Hurley. Hurley explained that the packed meals going overseas are shipped first by truck to Miami and Norfolk, from where they are shipped abroad.
“We have provided one million meals in Iraq, because of the problems with ISIS. In Sri Lanka, Feed the Hunger provides meals to schoolchildren on a daily basis,” said Hurley. “The hurricanes this year saw us sending meals to Houston and Puerto Rico and we are still doing so.”
Through word-of-mouth the event has become so popular, volunteer slots are scarce and fill up quickly. Sanders said a wide variety of groups join in the service from scout troops, civic organizations, companies and other churches.
“It’s become a snowball effect. People have such a great experience packing these meals, the next year they invite their neighbors,” said Sanders. “It’s truly become a community-wide event.”