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Sun, Aug. 25

Commentary: Satisfying that inner hunger to make a difference

Since 2011, Verde Valley Kids Against Hunger has packed more than 1 million meals to provide nutritional support to under-served populations in the Verde Valley, Yavapai County, the United States and abroad.

Since 2011, Verde Valley Kids Against Hunger has packed more than 1 million meals to provide nutritional support to under-served populations in the Verde Valley, Yavapai County, the United States and abroad.

The Kids Against Hunger Verde Valley story begins with a medical mission trip to the small village of Jubilee, in Gonaives, Haiti, after the horrific earthquake of 2010.

It was a place that made both Kim Gould and I ask, "What can just one or two people do, in the face of such devastation, pain and loss?" I am sure many of you have been through such life-changing experiences.

We returned home, began to pray and the Lord opened the doors and the hearts of the people of the Verde Valley. Our initial thanks go out to the four churches whose generosity allowed us to become Manzanita Outreach-Kids Against Hunger in 2011. Thank you again to Mountain View Methodist, Verde Baptist, Camp Verde Christian and Verde Valley Christian Church.

Officially we are a 501-C-3 charitable organization formed to provide nutritional support and health services to underserved populations in the United States and abroad.

How do we do this? Basically we are a food-packing satellite. As a nonprofit, we must first raise funds and solicit donations to purchase and ship the specific bulk food products and packing supplies that we need.

We then organize events where people of all ages (8 years old and up) come together and in an assembly-line fashion, pack our dry food product for the hungry. However what we really do is provide a 'hands-on' opportunity for people to come together and be a part of something bigger then themselves, for a greater good. It satisfies a hunger that we all feel -- the hunger within to make a difference!

Here is a summary of what the Verde Valley has helped us do since 2011.

• Together we have packed more than 1.1 million meals for the hungry both here at home and abroad, most of those directed to Haiti but also to other countries in time of need.

• In the last couple of years we have realized that there is hunger here at home also. To that end, we now have a local Latin rice-and-beans meal, and since 2013, more than 50 percent of the food that we pack stays locally in Yavapai County. Thanks to Yavapai Food Council, who is our collaborative partner, we distribute to food banks, schools, seniors and to any in need throughout Yavapai County. www.yavapaifoodcouncil.org

We have our standard KAH rice, soy and vegetable product for international distribution also. We have the privilege of being able to "follow our food," so to speak, and I just returned from my fifth trip to Haiti.

I am blessed to be able to share the many positive changes that have taken place in Gonaives and Jubilee, in partnership with Much Ministries, under Beaver and Kathy Brooks (www.muchministries.org) and Emory and Mary Wilson.

Through the initial work of Kim Gould and Emory and Mary Wilson, we provide financial support and medical supplies to the newly completed Medical Clinic, and have helped provide a solar generator that powers it. The clinic itself is staffed completely by Haitian personnel and is overseen by an American, Cody Smith.

We provide daily meals and nutritional and financial support to Jubilee School,(www.jubileekidsinc.org), which has over 110 children and is staffed by over 15 Haitian teachers and three Americans. There are plans to build another wing on the school soon, using Haitian labor, overseen by Cody's husband, Brian Smith.

We also provide food, clothing and supplies to five orphanages, and two village feeding programs around Gonaives.

In Jubilee, Much Ministries has also overseen the provision of a well as a clean-water source, the formation of a garden and the building of a separate feeding station where our food is cooked and provided to the kids. They have also been a part of over 50 homes being built for local residences, training and using Haitian labor. Currently they are planning to open a marketplace in December and have already been providing job training and opportunities for local artisans to create and sell their goods. (www.2ndstorygoods.com ). In turn, they are raising up the people of Haiti to support themselves.

The Verde Valley and Manzanita Outreach-KAH have been a part of all of the above for the last six years.

The people, including the children (we ARE Kids Against Hunger after all) of the Verde Valley, are the true heroes of this story. In a world full of "terrible," we have so much to be proud of about our community. Do you need a "feel-good" today? Please take the time to read the reasons that our organization feels so blessed to be a part of the Verde Valley.

Thank you to "your hospital" -- Verde Valley Medical Center -- which housed us and all our supplies and events for the first two years after inception, when we had no place to "live."

Thank you to "your churches," who prayed and supported us and specifically to Verde Valley Christian Church -- which, in 2013, allowed us to move into our own warehouse space (with a loading dock -- that is so God!), at their new church site on 6th Street.

Thank you to "your firemen" -- Verde Valley Fire District and Cottonwood Fire Dept, who since 2011 have cheerfully moved thousands of pounds of supplies and also come to pack thousands of meals, whenever asked.

Thank you to "your policemen -- Cottonwood Police Department -- who allow us to be a part of their annual National Night Out, and who have also packed meals with us.

Thank you to "your fairgrounds" -- Verde Valley Fairgrounds -- who allow us to hold our annual community packing events and whose staff bends over backward to make every community event they do a success.

Thank you to "your local businesses and civic organizations" -- so many who sponsor and support our packing events.

Thank you to "your schools" -- public, private, charter and Christian and the home- schoolers -- who love and teach our kids about giving back by supporting us and raising funds and coming to pack at our events.

Thank you to "your military" -- specifically the Air National Guard' -- out of Phoenix, who fly our food to Haiti for free.

Thank you to "your community who volunteers" -- all the KAH working team volunteers, hundreds who have given of their time and energy to make events happen.

Thank you to "monthly and individual financial supporters" -- for your continued much-needed support

Thank you to "all other nonprofit organizations" -- of which there are many in this community. To those who struggle also to serve the greater good with the vision and work God has given them to do. Our hats go off to you, sisters and brothers!

Thank you to all the packers who have helped us pack well over a million meals since our inception.

And finally, thanks especially to "your kids" -- who "get what we do" with little explanation needed. Who cry out with compassion and real tears when I show them the 'dirt cookies' that mothers in Haiti feed their children, when there is no food. Of course, thanks also to all "the mom's and dad's" who bring them to packing events. We ARE Kids Against Hunger after all!

Looking forward, how can "you, the Verde Valley community," continue to help?

We are looking for Kids Against Hunger team volunteer team members. Check out our website for specific opportunities.

Are you looking for other ways to help? Donate online or mail us a donation. Volunteer at our 2016 Community Packing Event Oct 22, 2016, Verde Valley Fairgrounds

We can be reached at:

• 928-649-5772 - director@kahverdevalley.org

• P.O. Box. 371 Cottonwood AZ 86326 - www.kahverdevalley.org

Manzanita Outreach-Kids Against Hunger Verde Valley is blessed indeed to be part of the community of the Verde Valley. Be proud of where we live and today, reach out to someone in need.

Thank you and God Bless,

Karen Freeman is the director of Kids Against Hunger Verde Valley.

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