On Wednesday, April 5, Perry Lutheran Home hosted its second annual meal-packaging event for Meals on the Heartland. The volunteer event drew in a crowd of 250 from all ages and a record 24,190 meals packaged by the end of the day.

The meals packaged contain a vegetable mix, vitamins, some rice and soy mixed together. Each package feeds a family of six.

“It’s been probably two and a half months of planning,” said Quinn Adair, Administrator at Perry Lutheran Home’s Main Campus and Spring Valley Campus.

Last year, volunteers packaged 22,000 meals at the first event. Meals are distributed to fifteen countries around the world including locations in Asia, South America, and Africa. 90 percent of the meals will be sent to other countries while the remaining 10 percent stay within the United States.

“I think people like to be part of something bigger than themselves and bigger than anything locally,” Mollie Clark, Director of Marketing for Perry Lutheran Home said.

The event was brought to the Perry Lutheran Home last year by Lutheran Home Volunteer, Dr. Randy McCaulley, Clark said.

McCaulley stumbled across the volunteer opportunity when researching ways to give back to those struggling in the world.

“I was looking for a way to do something to help the people that are starving and I know that there were programs around,” McCaulley said. “I kind of just stumbled onto it.”

After discovering Meals on the Heartland from research, McCaulley visited a Meals on the Heartland event at a Lutheran Church in Des Moines to take part. At the end of his shift, McCaulley knew the event would be a beneficial way to connect Lutheran Home residents with those inside and outside of the Perry community.

“We were looking for a way for our residents to give back to society,” McCaulley said. “That’s one of the things that really motivated us to get this going.”

Meals for the Heartland is run through a facility in Des Moines, but are able to accompany volunteers on site. In order to bring the event to the community, meals must be purchased ahead of time as well as fill shifts for volunteer slots.

“All four of our service clubs in town donated money,” McCaulley said. “Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimist Club, and Lions Club.”

With the help of donations within the community, the overall number of meals packaged was made possible.

“Originally we were looking at 22,000 meals, it was $4,500,” McCaulley said. “We ended up raising $5,000 and so that’s why we were able to do more meals.”

Through phone calls, social media posts, and posters, and overall outreach, the volunteer list was able to fill quickly.

“I think we had kids as young as six and seven, all the way to our residents,” Clark said.

Typically shifts were scheduled for an hour, but some were able to finish up early or stay later.

Volunteers worked throughout the day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s tremendous the number of people that have it in their heart to give back in the world,” McCaulley said.

Throughout the event, volunteers also had the opportunity to tour the facility, take part in an activity centered around the perspective of having dementia, as well as learn about the upcoming Christian daycare center in the basement and new music program provided to residents.

“If anybody wanted a tour, we took them to see our award winning dementia unit, we took them downstairs where the daycare will be, and then obviously invited anyone back who wanted to see it a little bit more in depth,” Clark explained.

The day-long volunteer event plans to continue as an annual spring tradition.