By Carla Morris
One never knows where inspiration will lead.
Just ask commercial roofing contractor Sam Rowley ’83, owner of R&A Contracting in St. Louis. When Sam became aware of volunteer meal-packing efforts to combat hunger, he turned awareness into action by hosting meal-packing gatherings in R&A’s warehouse.
When he learned about local hunger and the struggle of neighborhood food banks in St. Louis to fill needs, he envisioned that good effort expanded into a grand effort. Generous help from an army of inspired volunteers made Meals for a Million a reality.
The volunteer effort takes place in the St. Charles Family Arena. Teams of ten workers to a table fill and seal food packets in assembly line fashion. Children seven years or older also participate. Two-hour shifts allow volunteers to make a difference even in short blocks of time.
Sam grew up in Quito, Ecuador, the son of missionary parents. He is keenly aware of poverty and needs overseas and has a heart for mission work. But he also believes that international needs sometimes blind us to local needs. Hunger is a case in point.
Sam calls the statistics about hunger in the St. Louis area “mind boggling.”
“We decided to try and do a million meal packing in St. Louis for St. Louis,” he said.
A nutritionist helps determine the contents of the meal packets. Meals this year included fortified rice and beans, tomato basil pasta, macaroni and cheese and instant apple cinnamon oatmeal. Each sealed pouch provides a complete meal for six children, or four adults. One meal costs about 25 cents.
“There are approximately 200 meals per box,” said Sam. “One box costs $30.00”—the suggested amount of a monetary gift to Meals for a Million.
While the Meals for a Million effort includes collecting nonperishable canned goods for food pantries, the distribution of meal packets has gone another route.
“Only seven percent of the people who need food go to food pantries or are serviced by the food banks,” said Sam. “We have put together distribution networks using the pastoral fellowship in St. Louis to distribute the food right to the people in the communities.”
Most recently, some donors specified that their gifts go toward the Carolinas or Florida as a means of hurricane relief; Meals for a Million honored these requests. Last year the group sent over 100,000 meals to hurricane-ravaged Houston.
Since starting, Sam and his Meals for a Million colleagues have fielded requests to produce events in other cities. The idea adds another unexpected turn in this inspired enterprise. In a radio interview with Harold Hendrick prior to this year’s event, Sam reflected on the idea of following a call to work God ordains:
“I think it’s exciting to be a part of something that we don’t really understand when you don’t know what God’s going to do. But we see lives being touched, and that’s what it’s all about.”
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