Group meets for 40th kickoff

OAKLAND MILLS – James Wheeler, the Mennonite Central Committee warehouse manager at the Material Resources Building in Ephrata, was the guest speaker at the 40th annual kickoff meeting for the Central Pennsylvania World Hunger Association, held Thursday at Free Springs Church of the Brethren in Oakland Mills.

Wheeler shared his personal memories of his grandmother, which inspired him to help people in need of food. His grandmother raised two young children during the height of the Depression and was turned away by a rich neighbor when she asked for food for her starving children. Wheeler said her experiences led her to helping others.

“She spent her summers canning, planting tons of vegetables, and made sure we always had meat to eat,” he said.

Wheeler’s work with the church took him to the Middle East, where he lived for 15 years, and saw first hand how hunger changes more than just your body.

“It’s sort of a comfort. Without it we could become moody, or depressed. … Food changes people’s lives,” he said.

Violet Metzler, a member of the association for more than 20 years, said her own travels to foreign countries drove her to join the group.

“We’ve been in foreign countries and saw people starving, so that had a way of making us join. If everyone volunteered to help someone the world would be a much different place,” she said.

This year’s canning drive, which has no set date yet, will take place at the East Derry Fire Company. Last year’s drive resulted in more than 16,000 cans, with 400 volunteers helping to serve more than 1,000 meals to the needy.

The meeting started with a few words from President James Matthews, followed by a meal provided by the church. After the meal, CPWHA’s Canning Coordinator Ben Stolzfus briefly spoke, a treasurer’s report was given by Treasurer Brent King and new board members were affirmed.