CORNELIUS – Students at Cornelius Elementary School joined forces last week to make life better for young people in need in other parts of the world.

In partnership with the nonprofit Servants with a Heart organization, and through financial support from a CES family, the school’s 600-plus K-5 students pitched in on March 20 to prepare nutritional packages destined for international distribution.

The Servants With A Heart meal-packing project, coordinated by second-grade teacher and Student Council faculty liaison Trish Hefner, involved the transformation of the school’s cafeteria into a multi-table production line. From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., classes from each grade level took turns participating in the carefully choreographed process of filling meal bags with measured amounts of nutritional items.

Student teams, supervised by faculty members and Student Council leaders, placed predetermined quantities of soy, long-grain rice, dehydrated vegetables and vegetable protein in individual plastic bags.

Each finished bag, Hefner said, contained the ingredients required to prepare six meals. And one of the meals is sufficient to provide a full day of nutritional needs for a hungry child.

Hefner and the project team established the goal for the day at 50,000 meals. By 3 p.m, with fifth-graders halfway through the final shift, the unofficial tally had surpassed 55,000.

The meal bags were sealed and placed in boxes, 36 bags to a box. Boxes, custom decorated by other teams of students and stamped with date and location of preparation, were then stacked on pallets and prepared for loading.

The bag-filled boxes will be distributed by Servants With A Heart, a Charlotte-based nonprofit organization. Hefner said 90 percent of the Cornelius-made meal bags will go to help children in Nicaragua and 10 percent will help feed the hungry in the Charlotte region.

During the daylong event, Hefner said she and others shared photos of the school project with Servants With A Heart representatives.

“They were distributing meals in Nicaragua and we were showing them what the students here were doing,” Hefner said.

Knipp family support

To make the international service project possible, CES needed to purchase nutritional ingredients and additional items and materials. The need coincided with the Knipp family’s interest in expanding students’ global awareness.

Joshua and Amanda Knipp, whose son Jackson is a second-grader at CES, had talked to Hefner about participating in some type of project promoting a schoolwide focus on global issues. The meal-packing effort, the second at CES in the last three years, turned out to be an ideal fit.

The family, through Joshua Knipp’s Law Firm practice, donated the $7,500 the school needed for the project.

“We wanted to get involved with the school in some way,” Joshua Knipp said while pitching in to keep teams of students at each table adequately stocked with ingredients. “This seemed like a great idea and it’s turned out to be a great experience.”

Amanda Knipp, helping out in the boxing process, said the large-scale nature of the project was exactly what her family hoped for.

“Look at this,” she said, referencing the room filled with busy students, thousands of meal bags and hundreds of boxes in different stages of preparation. “What a great way for everyone to be involved. It’s a community effort with 600 kids here doing what they can to help children in other parts of the world.”


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