2,900 volunteers joined together at the World Meeting of Families to end hunger in West Africa

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Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

The biggest event at the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 climaxed today with some 2,900 volunteers from around the world participating in CRS Helping Hands and packing over 210,000 meals in two days of service. The meals will be sent to 27 CRS-supported social service centers in the West African nation of Burkina Faso; these centers provide care and services for some of the country’s most vulnerable women and children. The event is a hands-on meal packing event developed by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in partnership with Stop Hunger Now.

“What is important is not just that our goal has been achieved but that people will not go hungry because of the generosity of Catholics in the United States and their actions taken in faith as members of one human family,” said Dr. Carolyn Woo, President, Catholic Relief Services.

“On a day when we are all in mourning for the tragic deaths at the Hajj, Helping Hands reminds us that faith and love can reach out over oceans and bring us all together,” added Dr. Woo.

“We were overwhelmed by the presence of volunteers from 47 states and 19 countries at the CRS Helping Hands event at World Meeting of Families. We are so happy we reached our goal of packing 200,000 today,” said Rachael Holmes, CRS Helping Hands’ manager. “It’s really exciting to see so many people inspired to come up and give their time, energy and spirit to feed others.”

Students and seminarians join Lisa Hendey at the CRS Helping Hands event. Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

Students and seminarians join Lisa Hendey at the CRS Helping Hands event. Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

The first meal-packing event at the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015, began at 11:45 on Wednesday morning with 500 participants. 200 of those participants were students from local Philadelphia Archdiocese’ schools who were off from school for the week in this historic moment as the city prepared for Pope Francis to make his way into Philadelphia on Saturday.

Wednesday’s kick-off included a special appearance of Philly Mayor, Michael Nutter, who joined the team of volunteers to pack meals. There was also a special appearance made by the Philadelphia Phillies Baseball team’s mascot, Phillie Phanatic on Thursday.

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter greets Lisa Hendey, a seminarian, and other volunteers at the Helping Hands event. Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter greets Lisa Hendey, a seminarian, and other volunteers at the Helping Hands event. Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

“There is so much joy and excitement from everyone packing. We have volunteers that are big and small and all are from different parts of the world working together for a common good,” said Stephanie Bosses, from the diocese of Orlando, Florida where several years ago a “1 million meal challenge” was held.

The 210,000 meals will be combined with the 50,000 meals packed from the Youth Congress activities to fill a 40-foot cargo container and is expected to be sent to the West African nation of Burkina Faso in the Fall.

The final gong will be rung at 11 am at the conclusion of the last packing shift of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015.   The gong was rung at every 1,000 meal milestone; a total of 200 times at this event.

Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

Courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit crs.org or crsespanol.org and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnews, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

All photos courtesy of Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. We are the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a member of Caritas International and the National Catholic Development Conference. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and Pinterest.

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