About 50 local teenagers, with the help of Tooele County Rotarians, gave up their Friday afternoon last week to feed victims of Typhoon Haiyan — nearly 11,000 of them.
Leaders in the local Interact clubs — a division of Rotary International designed for teens ages 12 and up — initially organized a fundraising event in November to provide meals for displaced Filippinos.
Interactors Danielle Dunn, president of the SHS Interact Club, and Sierra Allen, president of the GHS Interact Club, brought the entire plan together in about three weeks, said Rotarian Laramie Dunn, who helped the teens organize the event.
Students from Tooele, Grantsville and Stansbury participated in the fundraiser. Their goal: to raise enough money to provide 10,000 meals, or about $2,500. But their event, which included a silent auction, a banquet and live entertainment, raised $4,500.
The Interactors continued on the event’s success with Stop Hunger Now, a non-profit group that ships meals to school children in developing nations. The idea, said Andrea DuClos, an advisor for the Grantsville High School Interact club, is that providing school lunches keeps kids in school and prevents education from falling to the wayside during financially difficult times.
The students used $2,500 to buy enough food for 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now. But, there was a catch — groups working with Stop Hunger Now are required to assemble and package their own donations.
When a truck full of rice, soy, vitamins and dehydrated vegetables arrived at Tooele Applied Technology College on Friday afternoon, more than 100 Interactors and Rotarians were ready to meet the challenge. The group assembled nearly 11,000 meals in half the time Stop Hunger Now had estimated the project would require.
“There was so much high energy there,” DuClos said. “We had to tell people to stop — they wanted to keep on going because it was so much fun.”
While hand-wrapping 11,000 meals could sound tedious, DuClos said the project was an excellent way to involve local teens and teach them about their potential to make change.
“It helps with kids to have a tangible event where they feel they have made a difference,” she said.
The Interactors have also made plans for the surplus funds they raised at their November event. The group plans to spend $1,000 on water purification systems for villages without access to clean water, and the remaining $1,000 will go toward buying medical supplies for the Philippines.
Tooele Interactors have organized large-scale service projects in the past, Dunn said. The THS club once remodeled a home for a homeless family, for example. But for the Stansbury group, which got started as a club just this year, this was their first major service experience.
“It’s just amazing for the kids to have an opportunity to serve like this,” said Dunn. “It not only benefits the people being served, but it helps the kids become more service-minded when they see they can make a difference in the world.”
Local Rotary Club members also have plans in the works for future projects, including their annual effort to distribute dictionaries to all third graders in the county to promote literacy.
Rotary is also looking for new members, DuClos said. The club meets every Monday for lunch at 12:30 p.m. at Tooele Applied Technology College. All are welcome to attend.