The evening of Friday, Jan. 10 started out pretty ordinary.
It was still light outside at a few minutes before 5 p.m. Only a handful of people had arrived at Tooele Applied Technology College. We were there to help the Interact and Rotary Clubs package meals for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines.
Soon, more people trickled in: A Boy Scout group, Interact Club members, Rotarians and their families. The organizers had asked for 40 volunteers and at least twice as many showed up. We were going to package 10,000 meals, six servings in a plastic packet containing rice, seasoning, soy and dehydrated vegetables.
How the group even got to have this service opportunity is a story in itself.
It began a week after the typhoon, in a house in Erda, where this glimmer of a project was born. Danielle Dunn, a Tooele High School senior and Tooele Interact Club president, suggested that the Tooele Valley clubs put on a service project to benefit the Philippines.
After the initial doubts — three weeks to prepare! — the idea took on a life of its own. I have never seen kids work harder in my life. My daughter, who was the Grantsville Interact president, smiled at the frequent text updates. Another silent auction donation. More tickets sold. Even the kids who couldn’t be at the dinner sold tickets and asked people they knew for donations.
The youth were on fire.
When the day arrived, the group had sold out the event. Their goal was to raise $2,500. They raised $4,500.
That was the first miracle. The second miracle took place on Jan. 10.
Everyone, even little kids, started hauling bins and bags into a room. Volunteers organized multiple stations. They snapped on hair and beard nets, put on gloves. One group filled packets. Once filled, they were taken by runners to the next table, where volunteers weighed them on scales and sealed them.
For every 1,000 meals packaged, someone got to beat a gong, and the entire room erupted into cheers.
There wasn’t a lot of time for back-patting, for self-congratulation, but I couldn’t help sneak glances at the marvelous sight — all working towards a common goal. Of teens giving up their Friday evening to help their brothers and sisters across the globe.
We had gotten the system down pat so much that the next gong, and the next, seemed a lot closer timewise, until finally, two hours from when everyone started hauling in supplies, the group had bagged enough ingredients for 10,962 meals.
When the gong sounded, the room erupted into cheers. I stood on a chair and recorded the remarkable event, teens and adults and children raising their arms in jubilation, dancing, cheering, and celebrating the accomplishment.
Yes, the group put together all these meals. But I think the greatest takeaway was the fact that young people took a leap of faith and worked hard to attain a common goal to benefit other people who are less fortunate. And it all came from a little kernel of an idea.
I know many friends who don’t even like tuning in to the evening news. It’s too depressing, they say. Friends, there is reason to rejoice. Our youth can do great things.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing consultant and an award-winning journalist who lives in Grantsville. Visit her website at www.TreasuredStories.net.