February 20, 2018
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500 volunteers in Bangor pack meals to feed starving children around world

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Bruce Knight stood Saturday morning at the back of the former Circuit City store on Stillwater Avenue. Dressed for the weekend in jeans and a T-shirt, he leaned into a large cardboard box to scoop powered soy into much smaller plastic bins.

The disposable hairnet perched atop his shaven head and bright red shirt made him look more like a guy headed for the circus at the Bangor Auditorium than a man on a mission from God.

“I think we are actually blessed in this country,” he said without pausing in his work. “This seems like the very least we can do to help others.”

Knight, 39, of Plymouth was one of about 500 volunteers expected to help fill food packets to provide 100,000 meals to starving children around the globe during the one-day session.

Saturday’s event, called Meals from Maine, was the first held in the state as part of a program sponsored by the Global Aid Network, or GAiN, and Feed My Starving Children, according to Beverly Kostusyk, 52, of Winterport.

Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit based in Coon Rapids, Minn., provided the raw food material in bulk. Volunteers, such as Knight, broke it down so others could place carefully measured amounts of rice, dehydrated vegetables, powdered soy and vitamins and minerals into plastic packets that were then sealed. Each packet, when cooked in water, will feed six children, according to the organizations’ websites.

Global Aid Network, based in Dallas, is the organization that distributes the food packets along with filter systems to insure the rice-based meals are not cooked in contaminated water. The meals packed in Bangor will be taken to a distribution center in Lancaster, Penn., and prepared for shipment overseas, Joe Kostusyk, 62, of Winterport said Saturday.

The Kostusyk husband and wife team, along with members of their church, Nealley’s Corner Church at 1260 Kennebec Road in Hampden, began planning and fundraising for Saturday’s event about 18 months ago.
Finding a suitable location was as difficult as raising the $30,000 needed to fund the event, Beverly Kostusyk said.

Much of the money was raised by her church and other churches in Greater Bangor by saving $14 worth of quarters in M&M’s Minis tubes, Beverly Kostusyk said. The Tabitha and Stephen King Foundation contributed $5,000.

Area businesses such as Cross Insurance and Home Depot donated space and services, she said. Dysart’s is helping get the meals packed in Bangor to Pennsylvania.

“As for fundraising, we’ve had our ups and downs,” Beverly Kostusyk said. “But, we had 500 volunteers sign up in just a week and a half.”

Three teams of volunteers each worked two-hour shifts filling, sealing and labeling the meals, then packing them into boxes for shipment. About 20 churches along with area colleges were represented Saturday, according to Joe Kostusyk.

“Our goal is have one event like this every year,” he said. “Our mission is to have a packing event in 10 locations around the state so we can say that in Maine, we pack a million meals a year.”

The couple already has begun planning for next year’s event.

For information, visit www.mealsfrommaine.org or call 223-5158.

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