by Ann Needle, The Stow Independent
Last Saturday morning, local Rotary clubs headed up an army of volunteers to package 12,000 meals for the Stop Hunger Now non-profit group in just about 45 minutes. The event took place at Nashoba Regional High School.
“It’s really unbelievable,” said Stow’s Laura Spear, former president of the Nashoba Valley Rotary Club, of the speed at which the work was accomplished.  She noted that the first half hour of the anticipated four-hour event was devoted to organizing and instructing volunteers on the assembly process. With the actual packaging getting underway at 10:30 am, the finishing “gong” sounded at approximately 11:13 am.
Nashoba Valley Rotary Club (covering Stow, Bolton, and Lancaster) was joined in the project by the Rotary Clubs of Acton-Boxborough, Clinton, Hudson, Littleton, and Montachusett Area.
According to Nashoba Valley Rotary, for the second year in a row, these local Rotary clubs coordinated their armies of volunteers to package individual meals of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and a flavoring mix. Each meal has 21 essential vitamins and minerals and a shelf life of 2 years.

The meals are shipped worldwide to programs that provide meals at schools and crisis relief programs, with the Rotaries in charge of shipping costs. Nashoba Valley Rotary President Richard Simon explained that, to assure the food gets into the right hands, the meals are sent to local aid groups around the world for distribution.
Many Hands and Short Work

Based on last year’s assembly of 10,000 meals, Simon said the Rotaries estimated three hours for this Stop Hunger Now event. But, Spear credited the flood of about 200 volunteers with making short work of assembly, putting everything together in less than 45 minutes — including an extra 2,000 meals.Three-year-old Ethan Braciska of Ayer was tasked with ringing the gong each time 1,000 meals were assembled. At 11:13 am, he rang the final gong.

The large group of volunteers came from all over the area. Along with members of the six Rotary clubs, there were students from Littleton High School and Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School’s Marine Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.
Faculty and students at NRHS also came out in force, from a diverse collection of groups that included Best Buddies, Amnesty International, and the Freshman Study Skills class. Spear estimated about 50 NRHS volunteers were helping out. “I always try to get them to come out and participate in good causes,” said NRHS’s Dave Emerson of his Freshman Study Skills students. He admired the ability of the Rotaries to muster so many volunteers, at a time when many groups cannot find people to step up to tasks.

As for NRHS, Spear reported that Principal Dr. Parry Graham helped get the call for volunteers out in the school community, while students themselves recruited friends. Richard Simon pledged that the Rotaries won’t stop trying to top themselves. At next year’s Stop Hunger Now event, he said, “We’ll probably go for 15,000 [meals].”