MSD Community Commemoration: Churches, Community Groups Join Food For The Poor to Pack Meals for Haiti
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2020) The Parkland community found healing through service Friday, as more than 600 volunteers gathered to pack 116,640 meals for starving families in Haiti.
Food For The Poor partnered with the city of Parkland and Feed My Starving Children to hold the MSD Community Commemoration, a special food packing event to honor the 17 lives lost in the deadly shooting two years ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Wearing hairnets and gloves and motivated by love, the volunteers came from area churches, businesses, community groups, as well the Miami Marlins and Miami Dolphins.
Their efforts were far-reaching. The meals packed inside the Parkland Recreation and Enrichment Center will be enough to feed 319 children in Haiti one meal every day for an entire year.
"It's a blessing that people come out in response to what was an evil, tragic event and has now become a day of love and service," said Calvary Chapel Parkland Pastor Steve Daigle, who gave the opening prayer at the event's two packing sessions.
"When it comes to being like Jesus, loving and serving others is what he calls us to do," Daigle said. "The tragedy was the catalyst for a lot of people to come together. This is the most I've seen our city come together in a long time. Part of the healing process for a community is bringing people together for something like this."
Food For The Poor President/CEO Ed Raine said many employees of the charity have sons or daughters who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas or know someone who was personally affected by the tragedy. Parkland is next door to the charity's Coconut Creek headquarters.
"This is a very personal event for us," Raine said. "Healing takes many forms. We're here to commemorate and honor the 17 lives lost and to do so in a productive way, to come together to help others through service."
At 2:21 p.m. Friday, the moment the shooting began two years ago, the upbeat music and cheers that filled the gymnasium as the meals were packed quieted to a hush as volunteers observed a one-minute moment of silence.
Retired Maj. Gen. Bernard "Burn" Loeffke, a longtime Food For The Poor donor, was present and already had honored one of the students in another way. He paid tribute to Peter Wang, one of the 17 killed in the school shooting, with a memory garden and plaque in an El Salvador village. Wang, who tried to help classmates escape the gunman, was posthumously accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, class of 2025, which is Gen. Loeffke's alma mater.
The Marlins' packing team included outfielder Lewis Brinson, a Coral Springs native, and Todd Hollandsworth and Juan Pierre, both of whom played on the team's 2003 World Series Championship and currently live in Parkland.
"To see everybody out here, giving back on a Friday on Valentine's Day, taking time to help out those less fortunate, it definitely means a lot," said Brinson, who visited with some of the students who survived the shooting and were treated for their injuries in the hospital.
"It was my rival high school," Brinson said. "Many of my friends and friends of my family went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their kids now go to that school."
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns, who grew up in Carol City in Miami-Dade County, wears No. 17 to honor the 17 lost in Parkland.
"Giving back to the community is important," Hurns said. "I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I understand that some people don't have the resources. I made it to the NFL and being able to give back in this way, I'm really big on that."
Margate Police Lt. Robert Kriplean was joined by his wife, Tiffany, and their five young children to pack meals.
Lt. Kriplean, who lives in Coral Springs, was among the first responders who arrived on the scene of the shooting. "We talked about it as a family. We feel like it's our duty to do whatever we can to help people that need help," Lt. Kriplean said.
Parkland Commissioner Richard Walker said the city was grateful for the opportunity to help the community by hosting a food packing event for the second straight year.
"I packed meals last year with my father and it was a tremendous experience," Walker said. "It's really mind-boggling when you think about the number of meals that are packed and how many lives are impacted. Our community loves to give back and this accomplishes so much in very little time."
For more than a decade, Food For The Poor and its longtime partner Feed My Starving Children have worked together to provide MannaPack meals to feed tens of thousands of children throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
But the packing events are about more than just assembling the meals, said Justin Quintana, of Feed My Starving Children.
"Part of our goal is to feed the spirits of the volunteers always," Quintana said. "It's not just about those four ingredients we put in a bag. It's really about being part of the healing for a community. It's about people being able to gather together and see people working together in love and be able to help others whom they'll never meet. It's just like so many of them had their hearts broken here, and were helped by people they never met."
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for orphaned or abandoned children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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