The following is an article submitted by the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee.
The Rise Against Hunger meal-packaging event organized by the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (WI-Act) in October is traditionally an annual effort, but COVID had forced the organization to cancel the 2020 event.
For 2021, knowing that fewer volunteers would be able to take part because of social distancing requirements and that they had to take extra precautions (such as requiring volunteers to provide a negative COVID test ahead of time), organizers had more modest goals and ideas of what a successful event would look like.
“We knew this would be a very challenging task indeed, but we were determined to find a way this fall to feed children most in need in the world, and to do so in educational settings where they could be nourished in mind as well as body. At the same time, we wanted to provide a community-building experience that, for the dozen years before COVID, has been an annual event for Wilton,” said WI-Act Chair Steve Hudspeth.
Over the last decade the annual one-day event for Rise Against Hunger has packaged more than 1 million meals with more than 700 volunteers annually. But that was before COVID.
After its one-year suspension, the WI-Act team had the almost insurmountable dual challenges of easing concerns of a community emerging from the pandemic in an isolation mindset, and ensuring it would provide the necessary safety precautions.
Wi-Act’s Steering Committee, heeded the prudent counsel of three members who are medical professionals. They recommended that all volunteers had to not only be fully vaccinated, but also be currently tested. Making the testing requirement less burdensome to volunteers, Wi-Act event fundraising chair and communications leader Jack McFadden was able to arrange for Waveny/Visiting Nurse volunteers to administer the rapid antigen COVID tests just prior to the event.
Hudspeth said that a GOOD Morning Wilton article and video interview that ran before the event helped boost volunteer numbers, and a total of about 175 Wilton friends and neighbors showed up to package 70,632 meals — an impressive 400-plus meals per person. Overall, the meals packed at the event will feed 327 children for a year.
Hudspeth expressed special appreciation for McFadden and Wi-Act’s treasurer Dave Gortz, who are also members of the Wilton Kiwanis Club and helped secure significant sponsorship from the club for the event. In fact, helping to ensure the event’s success, the Kiwanis Club and members contributed more than a third of the overall donation support.
“We recognized the importance of the event and, through Jack and Dave, we were well aware of the challenges. We decided to step-up to give the event and the Wilton community a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the joy of service,” Kiwanis President Den Taylor said.
Also integral to making the event happen were Wi-ACT’s event operations head Tim Cummins, webmaster Paul Breitenbach, and the dozen other members of Wi-ACT’s Steering Committee who led key functions from registration to provisioning on event day.
The Wi-Act Committee thanked those who volunteered and worked at the event, and expressed gratitude to the other generous donors: the Kaskell family, the Gortz family, Charlotte A. Griffin, the Stroup family, anonymous, Caraluzzi’s, Garavel Auto, Orem’s, Little Pub, Village Market, Wilton Rotary, Gregory & Adams, P.C., Lisa Gioffre Baird, Esq., the Brautigam family, Mark Grorud, Max Dental, and Teddy Woods. Organizers offered special thanks to graphic designer Rick Mapes, Paul’s Prosperous Printing, and Waveny Lifecare Network/Visiting Nurse.
Wi-Act Steering Committee members include Phyllis Boozer, Char Griffin, Berta Hull, Hossein Kharazi, Pam Klem, Endy Perry, Marilyn Van Ralke, Kathleen Rooney, Dr. Golnar Raissi, Donya Sadeghi, Dr. Hossein Sadeghi, and Peggy Zamore, (with special recognition for “key Steering Committee ‘auxiliary’ member Tara Cummins).
Wi-Act also expressed “much appreciation for the Boy Scouts of Troops 20 and 125 and their adult leaders.