As the executive director and chief executive officer of Feed My Starving Children, Mark Crea has the opportunity to travel to places like Haiti and Somalia, where he not only encounters great sadness but also the chance to see the fruits of his organization's labor.
"You look at a mom with a young child, and her lot in life is to slowly watch her children starve to death," said Crea. He said that happens to 18,000 moms each day. "That's a horrendous thing. But when a mom comes up to you and they say, 'Thank you for saving my baby' — I didn't save her baby. It is all these volunteers in Libertyville that will have that opportunity."
Minnesota-based Feed My Starving Children is preparing to open an 18,000-square-foot meal-packing facility in Libertyville, in the Park Avenue Corporate Center. Feed My Starving Children is a Christian nonprofit that was founded in 1987. Since then, the organization has delivered more than 600 million meals worldwide, Crea said.
The Libertyville facility will give more than 115,000 volunteers from all around Lake County the chance to pack more than 30 million meals each year for hungry children worldwide, said Crea.
"That's monstrous. That's so many thousands of kids that are going to be fed every single day because of what the people in Libertyville will be doing," said Crea.
The Libertyville facility, which is on track to open in November, will be the third in the Chicago area. There are also facilities in Schaumburg and Aurora.
Libertyville was particularly appealing, Crea said, because of the already-strong volunteer base in the area. When Feed My Starving Children has held mobile packings at local churches and schools, the Libertyville events have resulted in a million meals being packed during a three- or four-day event.
Volunteering at the meal-packing facilities, Crea said, is "a multigenerational volunteer opportunity." It's perfect for children and adults alike.
Crea said once the website for the Libertyville facility is active, people will be able to register to volunteer online. Individuals or groups can select the Libertyville site and can choose a day and time that works best for them.
"Here's the wonderful thing and the struggle we have with volunteers," said Crea. "Because this is a really cool and powerful thing, at our volunteer sites now, most people have to wait three to five months to get in to volunteer. Volunteers have to wait months to find an open slot because so many people want to do this. We just know what's going to happen in Libertyville, that shortly after it's opened, it's going to be full."
The basic meal that volunteers will pack is called the MannaPack Rice. Designed by food scientists at Cargill and General Mills, the product consists of rice, extruded soy nuggets, dehydrated vegetables, and a blend of 20 vitamins and minerals.
"It's the perfect food for a malnourished child," Crea said of the food, which is easily cooked with water.
Eventually, the Libertyville site also may pack the MannaPack Potato-D and MannaPack Potato-W. The former is designed to help children who are suffering from cholera or diarrhea, while the latter would feed younger children after they are done nursing from their mothers.
"Libertyville, in so many ways, is going to be the hub of our work in greater Chicago," said Crea. "The goal for us, a few years from now, is to get Chicagoland to be producing over 100 million meals a year. That would include all three of our foods."
Crea said the food is delivered to 70 countries.
"This food's going to go all over the world," he said. "I absolutely believe that for us, as we say, the Holy Spirit is at our back. Look at what people are doing. Look at what God is helping us do."