The next Friends & Family Community Connection food-packing event is Sept. 20 at St. Batholomew's Church in Poway. One-third of the meal packs will go to San Diego County families in need, and the rest will be shipped to Tanzania.
A San Diego businessman who makes a living helping people package up easy, healthy meals for their families is making a difference by helping hungry families in his community and across the globe.
Poway store owner Phil Harris first started researching how he might be able to help feed the needy in San Diego County several years ago. He now donates money and food to many organizations in the region. It was as a result of those efforts that he discovered the need to send meal packets to desperately poor people in Tanzania.
"As great as the need is in San Diego, you know, turn that up to boiling and that's the need that's in Tanzania," Harris said.
Through the nonprofit Friends & Family Community Connection, Harris has made five trips to Tanzania. The organization built a community center where 800 homeless kids are now fed and schooled, and it has helped build a girls’ dormitory and a computer lab, as well.
“There's no master plan, no strategic thoughts, even though much goes into it,” Harris explained. “Working alongside the people in this community has been as great a thrill as had been the successes we've seen on the other end."
Under Harris' guidance, San Diegans have sent 1.8 million meal packets to the people of Tanzania.
Ten-year-old Julia Venelli is among the many local volunteers who have helped pack the nutrient-rich meal packets of rice, dehydrated vegetables and protein supplements.
"I know I'm helping people in need, and that feels good to do something like that," Venelli said.
Andy Thweatt said he wasn’t a volunteer kind of guy until his wife introduced him to the organization and he attended a meal packing event. Since then, Thweatt has made three trips to Tanzania. He was there for the opening of the community center, where he was assigned the duty of controlling a gate where a crowd of kids hoped to receive food packets.
"You could feel the bones, you could feel the bones in these little bodies," Thweatt said. "I have two little girls, and all I could think is, 'Those could be my little girls out there and that could be my wife with that desperate look' that those moms had in their eyes. They're just trying to hand us their little kids so they get a cup of juice or anything. My life changed there at that gate."
To register for the event, visit the group's Web site.