Food pack exceeds goal

FAIRMONT – The Fairmont National Guard Armory was a sea of hairnets and aprons Saturday as 400 people gave up a day off to help with the Martin County Kids Against Hunger food pack. It was the sixth year for the event, which shattered its goals.

“Our [aim] is 65,000 meals and $15,000,” said Karen Sandhurst, one of the event organizers. The final tally was more than 89,000 meals and $29,000, with some money still coming in.

“This community has been awesome,” said Mark Smisek, operations manager of the Mankato division of Kids Against Hunger. His territory covers southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

“Fairmont’s a really good pack of ours; I’d put it up in the top 10,” he said.

And it’s truly a group effort. There were 34 10-member teams from ages “4 to 104,” including Paige Cowing, who helped raise about $4,000 by organizing a concert last month.

Teams included students, churches, youth groups and businesses, some with several teams.

Three separate packs were held throughout the day, with teams assigned to different times. Sandhurst said each group received a welcome, a thank you and instructions stressing the need for cleanliness.

“Hairnets, aprons and hand sanitizer – we have to keep things sanitized,” she said. “That’s so very important.”

Many of the packers bring cash donations, and there also are corporate sponsors.

Peterson-Anthony Insurance was the event sponsor, donating $1,000.

Corporate sponsors donating $500 included Dutch Creek Farms, First Farmers and Merchants Bank, US Bank, Midwest IT Systems, Kahler Automation, Torgerson Properties, Home Rental Agency, Walmart, Rosens Diversified Inc. and Valero Renewables Welcome.

There also were about 50 smaller sponsors.

“Some of the sponsors had teams to pack too, and Walmart donated a truck and trucker, which is a huge thing,” Sandhurst said.

The boys hockey team from Fairmont High School was on hand in the early morning to help unload supplies for the pack from a truck. After the pack, the Cardinal football players loaded the packed boxes onto the truck and helped with cleanup.

Martin County Kids Against Hunger has four chairpersons and a committee of 26.

Sandhurst had helped with the pack for three years when she learned it would not continue unless new leaders could be found. She believed strongly in the program.

“Thank goodness, there were three other people that felt the same way,” she said.

Sandhurst and the other co-chairs, Sarah Brown, Jen Kahler and Beth Reeve, began organizing last June.

“There’s a lot of planning,” Sandhurst said. “It’s not really just one event.”

The food packed Saturday, a dry vitamin-fortified mixture of rice, soy and vegetables, will go to Haiti, Nicaragua, South Africa or the Philippines, Smisek said. Or it will be sent to the site of any disaster, foreign or domestic.

As the Kids Against Hunger slogan states: “Feeding families around the world … and around the corner.”