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Alabama relief
Survival kits stamped with the Midwest Food Bank and Salvation Army logos are prepared for shipment to Alabama tornado victims Thursday, May 12, 2011, at the food bank in Bloomington. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber)

BLOOMINGTON — Gavin Glass counted out 12 granola bars, carried them over to one of the boxes in a cart pushed by Brett Duley and Alex Bleeker, and then went back for another dozen.

Meanwhile Duley and Bleeker worked as a team putting other items, including canned fruits and vegetables, toilet paper and dry noodles, in the boxes, being careful that each box received the same number of items.

“It’s kind of a fun assembly line,” said Bleeker.

Added Glass, “It’s keeping me really busy. I’m gonna have it in my dreams tonight. It’s fun though, so I’m glad I volunteered for it.”

The boys, among 30 eighth-graders from Broadmoor Junior High School in Pekin, were helping fill family food boxes for Midwest Food Bank on Thursday. The boxes, each containing enough food to feed a family of four for four days, will be shipped to Alabama to help residents who are recovering from a series of devastating tornadoes in April and early May.

Craig Stickling, a counselor at Broadmoor, said the Midwest Food Bank service project is the most popular among the junior high school students. The school has been bringing students to the food bank each spring for the last four or five years.

“Overwhelming … this is the best field trip,” Stickling said of the reflections students recorded after past field trips to the food bank. “They did something to help someone else. The students really connected.”

Hannah Dunn and Kayli Gorrie said they were excited when they heard they were coming to Midwest Food Bank.

“Other students’ past experience got me excited,” said Dunn. “It sounded like a way to help.”

Gorrie agreed. “It makes me feel good to be a part of it.”

Mike Hoffman, Midwest Food Bank director of operations, said 960 boxes are loaded on each semitrailer truck and delivered to Alabama. The seventh truck was being loaded Thursday. The Salvation Army has partnered with Midwest for 14 semi-loads.

While Midwest semis and volunteer drivers will do most of the transporting, UPS volunteered to take one load and Cox Transfer of Eureka took another, Hoffman said. Midwest Food Bank has 50 volunteer drivers, said Administrator Mike Meece.

Hoffman said once the truck arrives in locations in Alabama, Salvation Army vans take the boxes into neighborhoods. Besides canned goods and paper supplies, each box contains Girl Scout cookies, donated by State Farm Insurance Cos.; candy; and a bag called “Tender Mercies,” a creation by Midwest Food Bank that turns into a casserole for six people after boiling water is added.

Victims in Alabama also will receive health kits with such essentials as wash cloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, soap and shampoo.

Aliya Wood was one of the students helping put together the kits.

“I’m pretty sure people are going to be happy to have shampoo and know they aren’t forgotten,” she said.

Hoffman said Midwest has sent out 7,000 of the kits already. Several churches and other groups also are making the kits.

“Anyone can put them together,” he said. “They can get a list of what is included from Midwest.”

How to help

Midwest Food Bank is accepting monetary donations to help purchase food for boxes sent to families in tornado-ravaged Alabama. Midwest has to purchase one-third of the food included in the family food boxes, said Administrator Mike Meece.  Two-thirds of the items are donated, usually by large companies.

Midwest also partners with groups from churches, businesses and other organizations to make up health kits for disaster boxes. A list of supplies is available by contacting Midwest.

Donations may be sent to Midwest Food Bank, 1703 S. Veterans Parkway, Bloomington, IL 61701. For more information go to www.midwestfoodbank.org or contact the group at 309-663-5350. 

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