Greenwood area churches work together to pack beans, rice for refugees in Africa

By Mike McClure

Volunteers from 10 churches in the Greenwood area came together last Saturday at the Greenwood Mennonnite School to pack 52,000 rice and bean meals for refugees in Africa. This is the fourth time the group has come together to pack goods for needy people through the Global Aid Network (GAIN).

Its not like its just on church and the rest are just showing up, its everyone pulling together, said Steve Baker of GAIN.

Around 200 people were on hand Saturday to pack beans and rice. GAIN supplies the beans and rice to be packed and the local people pay for it (30 cents per meal) and supply their time in setting up and packing the food. The last packing event in Greenwood, about a year and a half ago, supplied 30,000 meals.

According to Baker, GAIN supplies food to some of the toughest, most remote places on earth. Places where other organizations choose not to go. The group has partners in various countries in East Africa that distribute the food and other items and GAIN coaches them on how to use the humanitarian aid.

They have the experience that we dont have and we have the resources that they dont have, Baker said.

Anna Hand first heard about the program when she went on a mission trip to Pennsylvania, where GAIN is based. She helped spearhead the first packing event in Greenwood with only a handful of volunteers. Support for the program has grown tremendously since then.

Were sharing the love of Christ, said Hand, who has gone on 11 mission trips. It brings all the people together. It kind of unites the community to do a project.

Greenwood volunteers also give their time at the GAIN warehouse in PA twice a year.

She knows everybody everywhere, Baker said of Hand. We call her the mayor.

In addition to packing the meals, volunteers brought 85 handmade quilts to send to East Africa. Over the winter, Hand made 800 sanitary pads called LuoPads, to provide to girls so they can go to school.

The organization also provides clothing and shoes and digs wells for the refugees.

Another GAIN group will be in action on Saturday, April 7 in Harrington. That group will pack 100,000 meals for those in need.

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