Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

In May, the parish of St. Oliver Plunkett, in Snellville, hosted a Helping Hands program, packaging meals for people in need. Some 80 people participated in making the meals. From left, Patti Ruiz, Samantha Ruiz, Gina Munck, Anne Adair and Bailey Munck serve as volunteers for the program.


Parishioners pack meals bound for West Africa in CRS collaborative

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published July 23, 2015

ATLANTA—Area parishes are embracing a solidarity-building program that draws together Catholics here and people in need in West Africa.

Helping Hands is a volunteer event founded on the mandate from Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt 25:35) and Catholic social teaching. It is a meal-packaging program for adults and children developed collaboratively by Catholic Relief Services and Stop Hunger Now.

Volunteers pack rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and vitamin supplements into pouches that are shipped to the needy in the nation of Burkina Faso in West Africa. The goal is to hit at least 10,000 meals during an event.

“A small effort on our part makes a huge impact. There are very hungry people we can help,” said Kathy Montag, who is the liaison between the organization and the Atlanta Archdiocese.

It’s also meant to put Matthew 25 into action, “to make (parishioners) aware of what Catholic social teaching is, feeding the poor, clothing the poor, visiting the sick, all these commands we are supposed to do.”

Stop Hunger Now provides the meals and packing supplies while CRS offers educational and spiritual resources to those who host an event. In addition to the meals, an event supports long-term CRS programs in Burkina Faso. The two nonprofits believe in providing emergency food aid while working with local communities to develop agriculture, trade and livestock.

In May, about 80 members of St. Oliver Plunkett Life Teen and adults put together the food at the Snellville church.

“I enjoyed that it was a hands-on event. You actually get to package the meals that you are sending to those in need. Our plan is to try to do this as a yearly parish service,” said youth minister Lynn Ory in an email. The program is a great way for the church community “to be the hands and feet of Christ,” she said.

It costs a minimum of $5,000 to host an event, half of which pays for the food and the other half for overseas shipping and CRS development programs. During the 40 days of Lent, the Life Teen members set a goal to raise at least half the money, with the parishioners pitching in with a special Sunday collection.

More than 200 folks are expected to put on the hairnets when the Church of St. Ann hosts Helping Hands on Sunday, Aug. 16.

Chris Turner, the youth ministry director, said he saw the program at a youth conference and was impressed by how it both addressed a need and showed teens and parishioners they could really help.

“It wasn’t just about donating money or food items, it was a very hands-on approach: actually packing and assembling the meals,” he said.

At St. Ann’s, young people can participate in four mission trips yearly and the adults do even more.

“We loved that we could take the momentum of those trips to show that service can be a way of life. It can happen all year long, and we can really make an impact,” Turner said.

Surplus money teens raised for the mission trips is funding the Helping Hands project. Turner said another benefit is that it brings together different generations in the parish, the teens and others, which is a priority identified in the archdiocesan Pastoral Plan.

Another Helping Hands event is scheduled for December at Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City.


Learn more about the charity at