Parishioners gather to aid people in Europe and Africa

Kristin Jeffries, right, a St. Francis Xavier parishioner, and her daughter Raelee Jeffries packed meal packages into a box March 26. At left, Jennifer Ballard helped clean up. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ky. — On a sunny March afternoon in quiet Mt. Washington, Ky., more than 100 parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Church packed close to 22,000 meals destined to feed hungry people thousands of miles away in Europe and Africa.

The parish community, including children in the religious education program, raised close to $7,000 to pay for the meals, said Helen Hagan, the church’s business manager. 

The parish has done meal packing before — 24,000 meals were packed in 2020 right before the pandemic lockdown. 

“It’s not something we can do every year, but it’s a nice Lenten program families can do together,” said Hagan.

The nonprofit Love the Hungry will send the meals to people suffering the effects of war in Ukraine and to people in Malawi, a country in southeastern Africa that was recently affected by a tropical cyclone, said Hagan.

Love the Hungry’s mission is to provide nutrient-rich meals that can alleviate and reverse the effects of malnutrition, especially in children, according to the nonprofit’s website. Volunteers, like St. Francis Xavier parishioners, combine rice, soy, vegetables and flavorings into a plastic bag, then vacuum pack and seal it. The meal will be shelf stable for shipping to people in need.

St. Francis Xavier parishioners, including children in the religious education program, helped load boxes filled with meals into a waiting truck on the church’s campus March 26. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Hagan said the meals are benefitting people far away, but St. Francis Xavier benefits as well.

She had to limit the number of volunteers to 125, she said, noting that so many parishioners wanted to be involved. 

“It’s great for the parish to get involved. I’m really happy about that,” she said. 

Lauren Battcher, the church’s director of religious education, agreed.

Battcher said the meal packing is an example of what the parish hopes to keep doing to engage families.

To help raise funds for the event, children in the religious education program took part in a friendly competition. They brought in coins and dropped them in a bucket supporting either the University of Louisville or the University of Kentucky basketball teams. Team UofL won and the children together raised $500, she said.  

“We want to bring family activities where they can serve together and get involved,” said Battcher. “They were excited. It made it tangible that the money was going to translate into meals. Many were able to participate and see what their money funded.”

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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