When the Westminster-based nonprofit organization The Hunger Strike was founded last August, its goal was to raise enough money to send 10,000 meals to starving children in East Africa.

After only two weeks The Hunger Strike raised enough money for those 10,000 meals, and they didn't want to stop there, Jeremy Willet, one of the founders along with his band mates and brothers from the Christian rock group Willet, said.


"We have been responding to the East Africa famine that broke out last summer," he said. "About 12 million people were affected by the famine and drought, and there was relief food that was needed immediately.

Now, after the most recent packing event at Crosswind Church in Westminster, the organization has packed 90,000 meals, and they plan to raise enough money for 10,000 more by September, Jeremy said.

Since August The Hunger Strike has held nine packing events at churches across Carroll County, packing 10,000 meals each time. In order to pack the 10,000 meals, the group needs to raise $6,250.

The Hunger Strike raises money by selling T-shirts and other merchandise and collecting donations online and at packing events. A donation of $25 equals 40 meals.

Typically, the organization needs about 50 volunteers per packing event to get everything done, but Jeremy said the response at each event has been far more than 50 people.

At the June 20 packing event at Crosswind Church more than 200 volunteers showed up to help pack.

The group was so large that it had to be split it half. First one group went into a room where Jeremy gave a presentation about The Hunger Strike, while the other group went into the packing room, and later, the groups switched.

In the packing room volunteers were separated into three different stations.

At the beginning of the process volunteers funneled a vitamin packet with 21 essential vitamins and nutrients specifically for malnourished children, soy, dehydrated vegetables and rice into plastic bags.

Next, the bags were weighed - each bag had to weigh between 379-384 grams - before being sealed by a heat sealing machine.

After the bags were sealed, they were tossed to a table where volunteers used a counting board that said "Stop hunger now" to count out 36 bags. The 36 bags were then packed into a box, which was sealed and set off to the side for delivery.

Volunteer Kelly Redman-Smith said she heard about the event at Crosswind and decided to bring her daughter, 7, and two sons, 13 and 15, along to help out.

"I figured it would be something good for the kids to learn about and be a part of," Redman-Smith said.

Crosswind Church Pastor David Sulcer said he was excited for his church to partner with The Hunger Strike to help pack the meals.


"The biggest thing it does is it allows everybody to take ownership of global poverty," Sulcer said. "In America, we're so protected. This shows you what we can do to help, and it goes across all generations. You see little kids running around helping, and they're going to remember this."

After only two hours, the volunteers had packed 10,000 meals to be delivered as humanitarian relief to different places in East Africa.

"The food goes to partners that we have on the ground [in Africa]," Jeremy said. "The food is actually distributed during the day at school, so the children are required to come to school all day."

The famine in East Africa has been downgraded from a famine to a humanitarian crisis by the United Nations, according to Jeremy, but he said the organization plans to continue its efforts.

At the latest packing event they announced the next event which will be held in September at Uniontown Bible Church. The organization needs to raise $6,250 dollars by September in order to pack 10,000 more meals, reaching a total of 100,000 meals.

At the next packing event, Jeremy said they will announce their new initiative - Hunger Strike 2.0.

In addition to the $6,250 needed for meals, The Hunger Strike is searching for donations of a 15-passenger van to use for events and an office space to use as their headquarters.

For more information or to donate visit http://www.thehungerstrike.org.