A group in Tempe assembled food packs in April 2012, much like volunteers will do at Church of the Nazarene on Friday and Saturday. The nutrition-outreach effort is backed by the nonprofit Feed My Starving Children.


A group of 400 church volunteers is banding together to pack 100,000 meals to feed people around the world.

This is the part of the article where you might expect a quote from an organizer about how badly volunteers are needed to take on the mammoth task, and contact information for those interested in participating. But, sorry, it's not coming.

You see, the project was so popular that volunteers filled up all the available spots weeks ago.

Craig Coulter, senior pastor at Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene, said the church has faced a unique problem in tackling the project, which is backed by the nonprofit Feed My Starving Children: It's had to turn away scores of volunteers who want to contribute.

"We showed a four-minute video three weeks ago," Coulter said Jan. 16. "Two weeks later, all 400 spots available were filled up. So many people are coming to us who'd like to help, but we are unable to facilitate them at this point. There's just a huge desire to help other people, and I don't think it's just our church. It's the community. We have a very giving community."

The volunteers will gather at the church, 500 W. Calle Concordia, to pack the meals in one two-hour shift Friday and two two-hour shifts Saturday.

The event is one of Feed My Starving Children's MobilePack activities. The organization gathers up the meals, which are nonperishable, then partners with other groups to send them all over the world.

Janine Skinner, development adviser for Feed My Starving Children, said the meals packed this weekend will most likely go to the Philippines, where many are struggling to secure homes and meals following a December typhoon.

"It's one of those countries that's a little bit like Haiti," Skinner said. "Hunger is severe. People are hungry and starving there. People do not get meals to eat every day. They go days and days without eating."

Skinner said this is the first time the group has worked in Tucson, and that there's potential for many more events like this here going forward.

"I very, very much hope so," Skinner said of scheduling more Tucson events. "We hosted our first event in the Phoenix area in November 2007, and immediately more churches wanted to get involved. It really just blossomed from there."

Dick Egolf, the church's missions president, is one of the volunteers who will be packing meals. A scene with so many people and materials could become chaotic, but he expects the volunteers to work like a machine.

"Feed My Starving Children brings in the raw ingredients and comes down to help instruct us; show us how to build meals," he said. "We'll empty out our sanctuary and have chairs set up as work stations. It goes pretty fast. We'll be able to build a lot of these in a short amount of time."

Volunteers of all ages will get the chance to work together, Coulter said.

"One of the great things I love about this is, it's an intergenerational ministry," he said of the event.

"We'll have families, children and teenagers, and they'll all be able to be a part of this great thing that we can do. It combines different ages and has them work side by side, with everybody working together."

Coulter, too, is among the volunteers. He said the church sought out Feed My Starving Children because of its efficiency - it uses more than 90 percent of its budget on program services.

He said the act of manual labor for charitable purposes is more gratifying than writing a check.

"When you get your hands dirty, and are actually able to do something physical, I think it does something for your soul and who you are," he said. "Even though you can't see that other person - where the food is going and who is affected - when your hands are involved and you're working and helping people, I think it heals your soul in some way."

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com