Take 5: Lee Rotary clubs unite to 'Stop Hunger Now'

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

This week, we Take 5 with Dr. Mitch Reese about the “Stop Hunger Now” program, which Lee County's three Rotary Clubs are joining forces for on March 16. Dr. Reese graduated from Duke University with a B.S. in zoology in 1973 and from the Medical College of Virginia in 1977. He joined Sanford Pediatrics after finishing his training at UNC in 1980. He and his wife, Jeannine, have two sons, Kevin, 34, and David, 33. Dr. Reese serves on staff at Central Carolina Hospital and is a member of the hospital's board of directors. He's been a member of the Rotary Club of Sanford since 1984.

What is “Stop Hunger Now,” and how did the Rotary Club of Sanford become involved in the program?

Stop Hunger Now is a non-profit international organization dedicated to providing meals to hungry people living in impoverished areas of our world. SHN attempts to link the provision of these meals with attendance at regional schools so that the children will be motivated to attend school instead of spending all their time hunting for food. Usually, each child is given enough food to take home to their families each day. The hope is that in this way, the cycle of poverty leading to poor education along with starvation can be broken. SHN accomplishes this by helping volunteers set up events wherein ingredients supplied by SHN are packaged for shipment to the impoverished nations. Civic, church and youth groups supply the manpower and the funds to pay for and package the meals. This will be the sixth such event sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Lee County. Sanford Rotary Club became involved when long-time member Sam Sillaman learned about SHN and got things going. Since then, all three Lee County Rotary Clubs (Sanford Rotary, Jonesboro Rotary and Sanford Sunrise Rotary) have become involved — supplying money and volunteers.

Your local event will be held at the Lions Club Fairgrounds beginning at 10 a.m. on March 16. What will take place?

That Saturday, with the generous supply of the pavilion at Lion's Club Fairgrounds as our sheltered venue (for the third straight year, I might add), a group of volunteers from the Rotary Clubs, church groups and youth groups will gather and, under the direction of a representative of SHN, will take a truckload of bags of rice, soy meal, and several other ingredients and package this into sealed packets each containing six meals (enough to feed a family of six for one day). The goal is to package a total of 25,000 meals on that day in two shifts (10 a.m. and noon). The packaging is done in a fun, festive atmosphere with music playing, gongs sounding and lots of fellowship. Then SHN takes the boxed-up packets back for storage, then ultimate shipment overseas.

The cost for each meal is 25 cents – how do the local Rotary Clubs fund the meals and the other work involved?

The local Rotary Clubs fund the meals through funds raised at local club fundraisers, plus matching funds from Rotary International. Everything else (food and water for the workers and the venue) is donated, and the workers are all volunteers.

How can people volunteer to assist in this program? And what if you can't be there personally – in what other ways can assistance be provided?

People can volunteer to help by asking a Rotarian about the event, or by signing up at church or youth groups that are participating. If you can't help this year, think about the coming years. We have established a tradition that will continue year-to-year, and usually the events will be in March or April of each year. If a person can't be there in person, SHN accepts monetary donations and donation of in-kind goods such as medical or educational supplies that they also try to supply to the needy.

Stop Hunger Now is an international relief organization, but we also have hungry people in Lee County. How are the Rotary Clubs helping organizations like CUOC address that?

Realizing the need to supply food to hungry people locally, the Rotary Clubs would like volunteers to bring non-perishable canned goods to the venue, which will then be given to the CUOC or the Food Pantry for distribution.