Above: During a recent 30-hour famine event to raise hunger awareness, youth from four local churches collect donations on Main Street in Whitewater for the Whitewater Food Pantry and Do Something MobilePack, a food-packing event coming to the city April 2. Below: Victor Fernandez holds a sign for passersby. (Heather Ruenz photo)

Above: During a recent 30-hour famine event to raise hunger awareness, youth from four local churches collect donations on Main Street in Whitewater for the Whitewater Food Pantry and Do Something MobilePack, a food-packing event coming to the city April 2. Below: Victor Fernandez holds a sign for passersby. (Heather Ruenz photo)

Local youth team up for hunger awareness event

By Heather Ruenz


About 30 kids from local church youth groups teamed up recently to bring hunger awareness to the streets of Whitewater, literally, in a 30-hour famine event. The teenagers collected food and money for the Whitewater Food Pantry and an upcoming food-packing event.

30 hour Victor Fernandez      In talking with some of the participants as they stood along Main Street holding signs and waving down vehicles – about 20 hours since they had last eaten – the hunger they said they were experiencing brought with it a stark reality.

“I eat constantly so I feel like I have no energy at all. It helps that we’ve kept busy but it’s a good lesson in what it feels like to be hungry,” Tanya Vidales, a Whitewater High School senior and member of a newly formed youth group at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, said.

Her friend, Edith Wente, a WHS sophomore, said she really likes to eat and “so far today we’ve had popsicles and water… so flavored ice, basically.”

One of the many activities the group did to keep busy during the 30-hour famine was a visit to Fairhaven.

“We helped the residents with things and did activities with them. It was really fun,” Vidales said.

Victor Fernandez, a member of the Prime Time Group at First United Methodist Church and senior at WHS, has gone on several mission trips with his youth group, and said the famine makes him think of people who live on the streets.

“I’ve gone to St. Louis and New Orleans and met a lot of homeless people living under bridges of highways,” Fernandez said. “We hand out blessing bags to them and one time we ran out of bags so started handing out our lunches.”

He said the group also spends time at homeless shelters while on the trips “to make lunches for all of the people staying there. We’ve also worked in city gardens that help keep teens out of trouble.”

Fernandez said the famine “isn’t bad because we keep busy the whole time.”

He said he wants to continue to help others and plans to study social work at UW-Oshkosh in the fall.

“I want to give back to the community and help others out,” Fernandez said. “Other things I’m involved with are a peer mentor group at school where we go to the other schools and help younger students, and Lead Dogs, which helps freshmen transition from middle school to high school.”

Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher, one of several chaperones for the 30-hour famine, said she continues to be impressed with the youth in Whitewater.

“These are such great kids who really do a lot to help others and while they have fun, they also take helping others seriously,” Otterbacher said.

Otterbacher said the community support of events such as the famine is “great to witness because it encourages the kids to keep doing good things.”

During the 30-hour event, participants participated in a lock-in, slept in cardboard boxes, took part in a scavenger food hunt for the Whitewater Food Pantry, along with several community service activities including the visit to Fairhaven. At the end of the 30 hours, the youth were fed a hearty meal.

All of the non-perishable food items were donated to the food pantry while the monetary donations went to Do Something MobilePack, an event coming to Whitewater April 2.


Do Something

Nearly 18 months ago, a group of Whitewater residents traveled to Delavan to volunteer for something that they had never done before – MobilePack, an international dry food-packaging event and service project.

The group of 10 from Whitewater included members of Girl Scout Troop 2332, the United Church of Christ Congregational youth group, and the M.A.D. (Making A Difference) Monday Mission group.

After the event in Delavan and a day at a similar event later that year, the group is set to host an event in Whitewater.

Maggie Radaj, one of the people spearheading the local event, said the Delavan event “made a big impression.”

“Mobile means that it travels around from community to community, bringing children and adults together to hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, which are then shipped to nearly 70 countries around the world,” she said.

Radaj said bringing the event to Whitewater is a big commitment.

“You commit to fundraising and packing a minimum of 100,000 meals. Each individual meal cost 22 cents and we are not limited to only 100,000 meals as each additional 22 cents raised means another meal we can pack and more volunteers we can give an opportunity to experience this,” Radaj said.

The meals include rice – the most widely accepted grain around the world; extruded soy nuggets – to provide maximum protein at a low cost; vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian flavoring – to give growing children critical and nutritional elements; and dehydrated vegetables – for flavor and nutrition. The dry ingredients are sealed in a bag, and only need to be cooked in water.


Get involved

Do Something MobilePack will be held Saturday, April 2 at Whitewater High School. There are four shifts: 8 to 10 a.m., setup; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., food packing; 2 to 4 p.m., food packing; and 4 to 6 p.m., cleanup.

As of last week, the two shifts still needing a healthy amount of volunteers are: 2 to 4 p.m. for food packing; and 4 to 6 p.m., cleanup. A few more volunteers are also needed for the 8 to 10 a.m. setup shift, but there were no openings in the 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. packing shift.

Those wishing to volunteer are reminded to sign up soon and, if the preferred shift is full, continue to check back as spots sometimes become available once groups get organized for volunteering.

Helping out at the event is free though volunteers are asked to bring three canned goods for the Whitewater Food Pantry.

To make a donation online, visit www.fmsc.org and search “Whitewater.” Checks can be made out to: Feed My Starving Children and mailed to Do Something MobilePack, UCC Church, 133 S. Franklin St., Whitewater, WI 53190. Checks should include 1604-018AU on the memo line.

For more information call (262) 473-4101, email WhitewaterMobilePack@ gmail.com or visit www.whitewaterucc.org/dosomething.


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