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Local volunteers unite for impoverished Ugandan children

Stacey Wadkins seals bags of food with daughter, India, on her back. Her son, Xel, and her friend’s daughter, Ashby Stark stand by ready to help. - Photo by Rachel Brant
Stacey Wadkins seals bags of food with daughter, India, on her back. Her son, Xel, and her friend’s daughter, Ashby Stark stand by ready to help.
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

With speakers blaring inspirational music, more than 1,000 volunteers donned aprons and gloves to help orphaned and impoverished children in northern Uganda.

Children of the Nations (COTN), which has an office based in Silverdale, hosted its annual 285K Meal Marathon Friday at the Silverdale United Methodist Church on Northwest Silverdale Way. Volunteers worked in two-hour shifts from 3 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday.

Volunteers filled 285,000 bags with lentils, spice, chicken and rice. Each bag provides six meals for the children in Uganda.

“The food is good for five years,” said Dave Spoon, Washington feeding coordinator for COTN. “The bag will break down before the food will.”

The vitamin-packed bags were boxed up and will be shipped to Uganda in a 40-foot shipping container.

“We save them from death then educate them mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” Spoon explained.

Church groups, community members and families volunteered at the Meal Marathon. Nanette Stark, of Silverdale, brought her daughters, Ashby and Bella, to package food for those less fortunate.

“My kids are interested in orphans and I thought this would be a good way to get their hands dirty and work,” Stark said.

Ashby Stark, 6, and her 5-year-old sister Bella put sealed bags of food into boxes for shipment.

“I like that I’m helping someone,” Ashby said. “It makes me feel good.”

Bella, an “American Idol” fan, watched the program’s “Idol Gives Back” event where they raised millions of dollars for needy children in Africa and the United States.

“We watched ‘American Idol’ and saw poor kids in Africa and we wanted to send them food,” Bella said.

Nanette’s friend, Stacey Wadkins, of Poulsbo, attended the 285K Meal Marathon with her two children, Xel and India.

“I think it’s really good for them to be a part of this,” Wadkins said. “They learn how to appreciate what they have.”

Xel Wadkins helped his mother seal the bags of food before putting them in boxes. He enjoyed the event and hopes to help others more often.

“I like helping people,” Xel said. “I would like to help more often.”

Spoon says the event would be nothing without the volunteers and he is thankful for their support.

“The volunteers are huge,” Spoon said. “I do none of this. The volunteers do it all.”

It costs $14,000 to send the 40-foot shipping container to Uganda. Spoon and COTN are still taking donations for the shipment fee. Those interested in donating can visit the Web site www.cotni.org.

“I think the Lord will provide the money,” Spoon said. “They will get this food.”

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