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‘Packing hope’ for starving children

Feed My Starving Children volunteers Joleen Gleasman (left) VernHills Ethan Spitz Round Lake Beach Peggy Morgan Libertyville pack meals Libertyville.

Feed My Starving Children volunteers Joleen Gleasman (left) of Vernon Hills, Ethan Spitz of Round Lake Beach and Peggy Morgan of Libertyville pack meals in Libertyville. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 14, 2013 4:49PM

LIBERTYVILLE — The new headquarters for a nonprofit organization will feed about 90,000 children per day.

Feed My Starving Children, based in Minnesota, feeds children in more than 70 countries. FMSC opened its first permanent facility in Lake County.

The 18,000-square-foot facility, located at 742 E. Park Ave. (about half a mile east of routes 21 and 176), opened Wednesday. It was able to open way ahead of schedule, according to FMSC CEO Mark Crea.

The original plan was to be in operation in March 2013, he said. He credited a huge community response as the reason to open ahead of schedule.

“I think this is going to be our No. 1 site. It certainly has the size and capacity. It’s the largest location, and there’s no reason for a year from now for us (not to) be saying how valuable this site is to the community,” Crea said.

FMSC has seven permanent locations in the United States. It also holds mobile packing events in which community members make packages containing dried food. Whether volunteers are assembling at an FMSC permanent site such as in Libertyville or hosting one at a community site, volunteers package food in precise amounts to ship to starving children.

FMSC developed a formula targeting starving children. Each pack contains rice, dehydrated vegetables, soy nuggets and nutritional elements.

“When I watched the video (about what FMSC does), my breath was taken away. You never imagine that four simple ingredients can make such a difference,” said Elizabeth Kelly.

Kelly, 18, of Mundelein was among about 12 seniors from Mundelein’s Carmel Catholic High School and about 150 other volunteers who helped package 147 boxes, resulting in 31,968 meals, which will feed 88 kids for a year, at the Libertyville site Wednesday.

Those meals will be among 272,000 meals that will be sent to Haiti in two weeks, said Crea.

The need for food in Haiti is huge, according to FMSC food aid coordinator Junior Obrand. Obrand of Minnesota is originally from Haiti and now works for FMSC.

“I was born in Haiti. I know what hunger feels like. Just seeing today (Wednesday’s inaugural packing event) is a new day for thousands of kids in Haiti,” said Obrand.

The food will be distributed through schools in Haiti. The midday meal at school is often the only meal children in Haiti will get, he said.

The Libertyville site will be able to package about 40 million meals a year. They will be sent all over the world, according to Crea. The site will be open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Within six months, Crea said he expected the site to have enough community support to be open seven days a week.

The Rev. Bob Davis of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Libertyville said he was excited that he and his congregation will be able to package food year-round. Crea called Davis “instrumental” in getting the Libertyville packing site.

His church hosted the first mobile packing event for FMSC four years ago, said Davis. More than 16,000 volunteers mobilized to pack 3.3 million meals during the packing events his church sponsored, he said.

“We are central to Lake County. Our hope is we’ll draw from all over,” said Davis. “You pack a meal, but we’re really packing hope.”

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