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LIGHTNING PHOTOS: Church youth group packs meals for hungry

Isabella Pyles, Nikki Schedidy and Celia Donaldson. Isabella Pyles, Nikki Schedidy and Celia Donaldson.

Sharon Mendolsohn looked out at the gathering of 55 teenagers in T-shirts and jeans filling plastic bags to feed the hungry and declared it a good scene.

"I think it's terrific any time you can get teens to come to church and do something to serve the greater community," said Mendolsohn, a church member who works on publicity. "It's very inspiring. They have a lot of distractions. It's very heart-warming. They're having a ball."
To a sound track of familiar pop hits, the kids at First United Methodist Church formed assembly lines to fill the bags, each of which makes a meal for a family of six. The bags, made up of rice, dehydrated vegetables and vitamins, are then boxed up, loaded onto a truck and shipped to Charlotte. From there, the food bag goes to some 60 countries. Add a liter and a half of water and cook for 25 minutes and six hungry humans somewhere in the world will enjoy a feast.
"The youth are packing 13,000 meals at 29 cents a meal," explained Colleen Schnitzer, director of the First United Methodist Church's youth group. "The youth and the church members raised the money for this. We carried big soup pots and asked them to donate to this or the IAM. They made a video and talked about hunger."
The congregation raised $1,700 for needy families served by the Interfaith Assistance Ministry and exceeded the money-raising goal for the Stop Hunger Now effort. Instead of 10,000 meals, the youth group spent Sunday packing 13,000 meals for hungry people all over the world.
Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization based in Raleigh, uses volunteers to pack the meals for distribution during crisis situations and to schools and orphanages worldwide.
"It's our hope that they'll not only be receiving food," Schnitzer said, "but they'll also receive the message of Christ and know that someone cares about them."