Hope for the Hungry packing event scheduled Saturday at Emerald Coast Convention Center
The money has been raised, the food has been purchased, all that’s needed now are helping hands.
Bryson Turner, 14, and his family along with Kids Against Hunger and others throughout the community will be joining forces at the Emerald Coast Convention Center on Saturday, June 12, to fill a container full of 250,000 meals to feed children in Haiti.
During the past year, Bryson, a member of Coastline Calvary Chapel in Destin, worked to raise $85,000 to purchase enough food for 250,000 meals to be shipped to Haiti.
But to bag and pack that many meals, volunteers are needed.
“We still need a lot of people,” Bryson said.
About 800 volunteers are needed to pack the meals in the two times slots they have set up on Saturday.
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In assembly-line fashion, they will have two packing sessions on Saturday, from 10 a.m. until noon and then 1-3 p.m. About 300 to 350 are needed for each session.
“We are starting to get those slots filled up, but we still need a couple of hundred people,” said Mhari Turner, Bryson’s mom.
Each of the meals will consist of rice, beans, soy and dried vegetables with vitamins mixed in, Mhari said.
Trucks will be arriving on Friday at the convention center with the food and the container to be loaded and ready to ship out on Saturday.
“Convoy of Hope will be on sight and as soon as it’s filled and sealed up on Saturday … it will be headed to the dock and shipped,” Mhari said.
At age 3, Bryson was stirred by the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 and spent the next few years praying for Haiti.
At age 7, he and his family went on a mission trip with Coastline Calvary Chapel and Mission of Hope to Haiti and was able to see firsthand the need.
“You can’t really ignore what’s there,” Bryson said.
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After that first trip, at about age 8, he heard about the “food packing events” but in order to make it work you have to raise $5,000.
His mom said if you’re going to do it, you have to do it yourself.
Bryson wound up raising $6,500.
“I did it doing little stuff,” he said.
Bryson did bottle fundraisers where he would pass out bottles around the neighborhood and people would fill them up with their change and then he would come back with his wagon and collect them.
“I went around for 12 weeks collecting peoples recycling,” he said. "In seven months, I got the $6,500, that was around 22,000 meals."
Last year he doubled his dollars and meal count providing 44,000 meals.
This year they jumped to 250,000 meals, enough to fill an entire shipping container.
The last two packing events have been at Coastline in Destin.
“In 2020, we were able to pull it off with masks, with smaller groups and a lot more spacing and people still showed up,” Mhari said.
“I think people want the opportunity to give back,” she said.
In December 2020, the Turner family returned to Haiti.
Bryson said they were able to see meals passed out from someone else’s packing event.
“It was great, the kids were just staring in angst … just watching on the side,” Bryson said. “You can see the excitement on their face."
Packing event Saturday
Manpower and hands are needed.
“I was nervous about the money,” Mhari said, noting the $85,000 that was needed.
“(God has) been so faithful in getting us this far, I’m really confident he’s got the people out there. I’m confident that we’ve got a lot of last-minute people out there. I think we’ll get there,” she said.
They have people already enlisted to volunteer from all over Okaloosa County as well as people from Gulf Breeze showing up to help.
“We’ve got some of the Niceville High School football players and wrestlers coming at the end of the event to help pack all the supplies back up,” she said.
“So, it’s turning into this beautiful community effort. Not anything we could do by ourselves,” she said.
“The meal packing events are such an easy way you can be involved,” she said. “You don’t have to go anywhere. We can mobilize our community to change the lives of those kids in Haiti. Everybody can pitch in a little bit and we can do something amazing … and that’s what’s happening now. Our community has really rallied around this project."
The end result, “780 kids being fed a meal a day for a year,” Bryson said.
If you'd like to help, contact Mhari Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org