Phew! Another successful Meals from the Heartland event under our belts, and it never fails to inspire and energize us all over again. It’s our second year of helping to promote Meals from the Heartland (MftH), a mass food-packaging effort that brings together more than 14,000 Iowans to package and transport more than 4 million meals around the world. When we took on MftH two years ago as our pro bono client, we never imagined the impact working with this group of people would make on our own business. The kindness, the genuine hearts, the “don’t expect ‘no’ as an answer” attitude, and the fearlessness…I am consistently blown away by what this group of volunteers produces. Every year I think they’ve topped the last, but I’m now convinced more than ever, this is still just the beginning
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a lot of work. I’m fairly certain our agency has never put this amount of time toward any other non-paying client. But when we made the commitment, we all agreed we were making a commitment. And trust me, we’ve reminded ourselves and each other many times that we are fulfilling a commitment that we made. Inevitably, it all comes around to remembering the end goal…a starving person receiving a nutritional meal. That’s what it’s all about.
My favorite moment of the last two years working with MftH is standing in the middle of Hy-Vee Hall during the event with literally hundreds of cheerful Iowans buzzing around me – young, old, every race and religion, working together to feed people they will likely never see or hear a “thanks” from, and I get chills as my throat tightens and eyes fill. I get teary just writing about it. It is SO WORTH the time and effort. It restores my faith in humanity, and even in myself.
This year made me especially proud of everyone involved. The special vignettes constructed by MftH volunteers who visited Haiti served as a life-size visual of how people are living there. “Tent City”, as we called it, brought reality closer to home for most of us who have only seen the images on TV. I watched as adults cried their way through the maze of tents, and children asked their parents “but where are the bathrooms? What about bedrooms?” and their eyes grow wide as they were told the truth. When the idea of building the vignettes was first discussed in a committee meeting, I remember thinking it’d be a miracle if it really came together…so much effort, so much work. But it did. And it was my favorite place to be while volunteering that weekend.
I’ve taken lessons from the Meals group on how to make things happen, even if the rest of the world (literally) deems it impossible. It is this experience that has led our agency to a new venture in our business. While we can’t offer this same free service to all non-profits and still keep our doors open, we can offer our expertise and hearts to these organizations through an affordable and practical program that provides fundraising and marketing expertise. We’ve spent a good portion of the last year brainstorming, developing, refining and polishing our Mission Assist program, and I’m proud to say my heart is wrapped up in the offer.
As I ushered people into Tent City last week, a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 6-years old, walked by me and said in a shy, sweet voice, “Thank you for helping people who need it.” THAT, my friends, was my payment in full.