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Event packs a ton of fun, faith in 2-hour shifts

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SAN DIEGO — When the diocese’s deacons launched the Million Meal Event last year, Deacon Mike Daniels said there was “a lot of pushback” from those who thought the project’s goal was too ambitious.

Could they really raise $250,000 to purchase the required lentils, rice, vitamins and spices? Could they enlist 3,000 volunteers to combine the ingredients into enough food packets to provide 1 million meals for impoverished people in Mexico, Africa and the Philippines? Could that many meals be prepared in just one weekend?

The answers to those questions turned out to be yes, yes, and yes.

Encouraged by that success, the Million Meal Event is not only returning for a second consecutive year, but the deacons are raising the stakes. Their new goal is to pack 1.5 million meals – a challenge that will require raising $375,000 and signing up 4,000 volunteers.

The Million Meal Event will be held on Saturday, June 10, and Sunday, June 11, once again on the campus of Cathedral Catholic High School. About 150 work stations will be set up, where volunteers will work in two-hour shifts in assembly-line fashion to produce individual food packages, each containing enough for six meals.

There will be three food-packing shifts – two on Saturday and one on Sunday. Volunteers are also needed for set-up and breakdown of the event.

Deacon Daniels, who serves on the planning committee, said the Million Meal Event is special because it not only ensures that “a lot of people get food,” but also gives lay Catholics a chance to “put their faith into action” and make a genuine impact on the lives of the poor.

Though participants work hard to accomplish their collective goal, that work isn’t burdensome.

“It’s a party,” said Deacon Daniels. “Joy was flowing (at last year’s event). We had a good DJ there … and people were dancing while they were working.”

Julie Gabbard, whose husband is a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chula Vista, participated last year.

“It was just joy. I mean, I left on Cloud Nine,” she said. “If we could bottle it up and pass it out, I would, because it was Church-in-action, and it was just great to see San Diego parishes come together.”

St. Brigid’s parishioner Amanda Asaro participated alongside her husband; their daughters, then ages 10 and 7; and a few members of her older daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

“The event was much larger and more lively than I had expected, and we had a really good time,” said Asaro, who saw the event as “a great way to teach kids … to give back to their community.”

“(Our kids) have a lot that we can provide for them,” she said, “and I want them to know that there’s other children in the world … that aren’t as fortunate.”

Matthew Korniczky, a junior at Cathedral Catholic High School, also participated in last year’s event.

“I am so glad that I got out of my comfort zone and volunteered,” he said. “I was hesitant at first, but it was really fun, really rewarding, and I plan to volunteer again this year.”

He said, “It was such a fun event … and it felt fulfilling to know that I was directly helping feed those in need around the globe.”

To sign up or to donate, visit sdcatholic.org/millionmeals.

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