Volunteers pack 1 million meals in spirit of Christian unity

Friday, November 30, 2018 - Updated: 10:59 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center was jumping as “We are Family” blared over the loudspeakers. Many of the volunteers moved to the music as they packed meals of vitamin-fortified macaroni and cheese.

While many others were racing to grab Black Friday deals, they were witnessing what it truly means to be a family — in Christ. They were among the some 3,000 who took part in the second annual Amen to Action gathering Nov. 23. Its goal was to pack more than 1 million meals for Pittsburgh’s hungry.

Amen to Action, a non-denominational Christian volunteer initiative, partnered with Meals of Hope and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to host the event.

“It was the perfect example of what Jesus taught us to do — to love one another as I have loved you,” said John Tucci of St. James Parish in Sewickley.

A late push helped the initiative to reach its goal for the second year in a row.

Reid Carpenter, founder of Leadership Foundations Inc., is a co-founder of the initiative. He spoke of the power of people coming together as one. How else could you get such a diverse crowd together in the name of Christ, while having a good time working together? 

“There’s very few places anywhere that have the capacity to lure people together like this,” he said.

Faith Ann Miller, 13, of St. Alexis Parish in Wexford, was there with her family.

“It was a cool experience to be here as a family and help so many other people,” she said. Her sister, Mary Grace, 15, pointed out that motorists often see people sitting on the side of the road, but how often do they stop and ask about them?

“This is our way of giving them something to look forward to during the holidays,” Mary Grace said.

Their mom, Diane Miller, noted that she wanted her daughters to experience what it means to give back, adding, “We’re blessed with so much, and it’s time we give back to others — to be like Jesus.”

Her husband, Adam, spoke of the fruits of being around so many other faithful Christians. “It’s good to see the body of Christ together, all working for a common purpose,” he said.

Four Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh — Corrine Moeller, Jeanne Ubinger, Linda Larkman and Susanne Chenot — were decked out in “Stronger Than Hate” shirts that recognized last month’s shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Their Benedictine charism supports social justice issues.

John and Mary Alice Farren are members of Holy Trinity Parish in Robinson Township. Mary Alice said it was wonderful to see meals produced “one after the other, after the other.”

“It was a bunch of great people,” she said. “I really felt the Holy Spirit here.”

The gathering opened with a worship service that included Bishop David Zubik. He told the volunteers that their presence was a visible sign of the love that unites them with those in need.

“We are here today to respond to their needs by feeding them from our hearts,” he said. The bishop was among those who packed meals.

Craig Schweiger, director of the Light of Life Rescue Mission on Pittsburgh’s North Side, described the initiative as “labor prompted by love and endurance prompted by hope.”

“God is blessed when his children help each other,” he said.

Lisa Scales, director of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, said that hunger can affect many segments of society at any time, adding, “I could be the person down the street looking for my next meal. It could happen to any one of us.”

As part of the initiative, e-mail addresses were collected in an attempt to generate 1 million service hours in the Pittsburgh area in the coming year.

“I believe our city can be transformed,” Schweiger said.

Carpenter said the initiative’s goal is to energize people to go out and perform good works in the community. “It will be the forerunner of something much better and much deeper.”

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