Karla Ceman is leading an effort to package Mercy Meals for starving people around the world. The effort at Waupun's Pella Lutheran Church has gathered much area support, and a workshop to package the meals is set for Saturday.

WAUPUN — Volunteers of all faiths will once again pack Mercy Meals to save lives in the education wing of Pella Lutheran Church, 315 S. Madison St.

The next packing date is Saturday. Two shifts have been planned, from 9 a.m. to 1 and noon to 4 p.m.

Food for volunteers will be provided by Culver’s of Waupun, Pizza Ranch and private individuals.

Mercy Meals — a mixture of rice and soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, vitamins and flavoring — are made to fill a serious need.

“Because we are dealing with people who are literally starving, they can’t digest the food that we can,” said organizer and youth minister Karla Ceman. “This is a very nutritious mix that the organizers have been using for years. If they are weighed and the bags come up short we can only add rice, because if they get too much protein they’ll get very sick. We have to be very precise.”

Meal packing involves measuring out the ingredients and packing them in preparation for shipment. Recipients include the starving people of Haiti and Liberia.

Each bag, assembled and packaged by volunteers at the church, can feed about six people.

“A lot of people will stretch that bag to eight to 10 people, and that might be their only meal for the day,” Ceman said. “It could be their only meal for days — and that’s not unusual.”

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The meals are supplied to Orphan Grain Train — Wisconsin Branch, which collects the boxed meals and transports them to wherever they are needed. Mercy Meals ingredients are purchased at cost from “Kids for Hunger,” a charity that obtains food in bulk to share with charitable organizations.

Meals cost about 12 cents each, with 3% of the cost going to Orphan Grain Train to cover their expenses.

Volunteers at the church originally gathered clothes for two years, preparing and boxing them for shipment abroad. Two years ago they began packing Mercy Meals along with the ongoing clothing collection.

Funding is provided by a local foundation, by Pella Lutheran Church and by individuals eager to address the problems of world hunger and starvation.

With access limited by Madison Street reconstruction, Ceman expects that the number of helpers may be smaller than it was in the past. Nonetheless, she hopes to pack between 15,000 and 20,000 meals on the day.

“People can get to the church parking lot off Lincoln Street, going either way,” Ceman said. “We hope that people won’t be discouraged by that.”

Another volunteer day will be held in February or March.

For more information, go to the Pella Lutheran Church Facebook page. To volunteer call Ceman at 920-291-8600. Contributions may be mailed to the church marked “Mercy Meals.”

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