Averett, Community Come Together to Pack 20,000 Meals Thursday

Posted on September 24th, 2021 by Matt Bell

The Averett campus was buzzing with activity Thursday, Sept. 23, as students, faculty, staff, community members and organizations came together to pack 20,000 meals in the University’s Carrington Gym.

Together, more than 100 volunteers assembled oatmeal packets from Harvest Pack that were in turn donated to God’s Storehouse, a local Danville food bank, through eight assembly lines.

Brad Fleming, partnerships manager for Harvest Pack, said each oatmeal package contained simple ingredients including oatmeal, sugar and a fortified cinnamon mix.

“We call these hunger projects or meal packing events. One, hunger is a problem that never goes away. Second, the student engagement is so important because they get to impact someone’s life that they never get to see,” Fleming said. This was Harvest Pack’s first visit to Averett’s campus since January 2020.

Harvest Pack was founded in 2012 and has packed over 8 million meals since that time. In the Dan River Region, Fleming estimated over 60,000 meals total have been assembled and distributed.

On Thursday, three tables were used in each assembly line. To begin, a volunteer held an oatmeal bag under a funnel while another poured a scoop of oatmeal into it. It would be followed by a level scoop of sugar, and then cinnamon, before a second scoop of oatmeal was added. From there, red bins would fill with the open bags before going to table two.

At the second table, the bags were placed on a scale to meet a certain weight criteria before being sealed and moving to table three. The meals were then lined on the third table before moving into boxes for distribution.

“This is an excellent teambuilding exercise for a business, organization or volunteer group,” Fleming said. “Each bag of oatmeal has a shelf life of a year.”

As the assembly lines began rolling, volunteers flowed through the doors as the first bags were boxed by 11 a.m. By noon, 12,000 meals had been assembled by all eight assembly lines.

Just 15 minutes later, Fleming announced the meals number had reached 15,000.

“All of you, you know what you are? Hunger heroes. That’s you. You’re hunger heroes,” Fleming told the volunteers.

As the numbers increased, a gong rang throughout the event for each box that was packaged and ready to go out in the community.

Maleek Pulliam, a senior majoring in coaching as well as an Averett Bonner Leader, was thrilled to be a part of the day’s events. Standing at the end of the assembly line, Pulliam sorted bags into stacks before they were placed in a cardboard box.

“It’s always great to be a part of something bigger than yourself and give back to the people. Averett has such a big family that goes beyond the faculty, staff and students. It includes our community, as well. It’s so great to be able to give back to those who are in need and hungry. I’ve been in situations before where I didn’t necessarily have what I wanted but I had what I needed. And I am so thankful to be here today and giving back,” Pulliam said.

Danville Otterbots Ticket Sales and Experience Manager Hogan May joined the efforts to package the meals Thursday in Carrington Gym. As someone who is new to the area, May said he was excited to get involved with volunteerism opportunities in the area.

“I couldn’t turn this opportunity down to represent the Otterbots and the community,” May said.

Director of Community Engagement at Averett’s Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness Tia Yancey was thrilled with the turnout for Harvest Pack.

“I’m proud and it makes me feel good to have so many volunteers here today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to help those in need. We’ve had community members, students, staff and faculty members here today. Also, we’ve had various organizations here to help as well,” Yancey said. Among them, area Rotary members from Danville and Chatham, Va. were present.

God’s Storehouse Executive Director Karen Harris was also on site to help with the volunteer efforts.

“I just think it’s wonderful and I’m delighted to see all these young students, Rotarians and our God’s Storehouse volunteers working together to put these meals together. We’re so excited to get these meals.”

Just before 1 p.m., the assembly goal of 20,000 meals was met for the Dan River Region.