John Foster usually doesn't have to "twist arms" to get volunteers to wear a hair net and spend two hours of their day packing meals delivered to malnourished children around the world.
Since 2013, his Glen Ellyn church has hosted teams of volunteers who fill bags with rice, vegetables, soy and vitamins for Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit group that distributes meals to kids in nearly 70 countries.
If you goWhat: Feed My Starving Children MobilePack event
When: 2 to 4 p.m. (setup), 5 to 7 p.m., 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. to midnight Friday; 8:15 to 10:15 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday; 8:15 to 10:15 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Glen Ellyn Bible Church, 501 Hillside Ave., Glen Ellyn
Info: Check for available volunteer slots at Give.fmsc.org/events/-/e107590 or contact John Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's efficient work. And Foster gives three efficient reasons for participating when the "MobilePack" event returns to the Glen Ellyn Bible Church today through Sunday.
"One, you'll have a blast. Two, you'll learn things you didn't know about poverty," said Foster, the church's care and outreach pastor. "Three, you'll become motivated."
He knew volunteers were having a blast when they sang hits from Disney's "Frozen" in 2016, when the event packed enough nutritious meals to feed 785 children for an entire year.
The goal this weekend is to top that feat and prepare nearly 280,000 meals. Organizers also have raised about $50,000 of the $60,000 needed to pay for the meals that cost 22 cents each.
By Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, organizers also expect to hit the "1 million mark" in terms of meals packed at the church since 2013, Foster said.
He credits a "communitywide effort" that draws refugees, high school athletes, scouts and even gamers.
While they provide the manpower, Feed My Starving Children "takes care" of the rest of the logistics, Foster said. Two semitrailers will park outside the church through Sunday afternoon. One holds the supplies and, in the other, volunteers will load boxes of meals.
"We're not professional food distributors, and they are," Foster said of the Minneapolis-based group that works with partners overseas to deliver the food. "But we have a heart and the people of Glen Ellyn and DuPage are always willing to engage."
Volunteers will gain insights into poverty through an orientation video before they begin their shifts. The church doesn't yet know where the meals are headed, but "there's a good chance" that the food could aid famine-relief efforts in Somalia and Haiti, Foster said.
"We can't overlook or neglect those in need," Foster said.
Feed My Starving Children began its "MobilePack" program about 11 years ago to expand its reach and encourage churches, businesses and other organizations to pack meals outside of the nonprofit's permanent facilities. That allows volunteers to "engage their own community locally," said Anthony Kasper, the mobile pack adviser based out of the Feed My Starving Children site in Aurora.
More than 1,000 people are expected to contribute in Glen Ellyn. And anyone can lend a hand, Foster said. Those unable to stand for long periods of time, for instance, can place labels on bags.
And as for his third reason for signing up? Volunteers become motivated, Foster said, because of a competitive atmosphere across 16 work stations.
"It resonates with something inside of them that they want to be a part of," he said.