When the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank put out a call for volunteers to participate in a 24-hour food packaging marathon, Francel Parker didn’t hesitate to sign up.
The senior pastor at Open Door Assembly of God in Akron figured the food bank helps his church, so why wouldn’t he help the food bank?
Parker, 51, spent two hours Monday afternoon wearing a hairnet and working in a cereal line at the event, which was dubbed “Operation Orange” and closed Hunger Action Month for the agency.
“I like doing this,” Parker said. “It’s giving back. What a way for us to be a part of this organization that helps us and the community.”
Others obviously felt the same way.
More than 1,000 volunteers participated, working two-hour shifts in the Akron warehouse over a 24-hour period that ended at 4 p.m. Monday.
They packaged cereal, meat, apples and potatoes, and put labels on “shiners,” aluminum food cans that came in without identification.
“I’ve done this before, and it’s a good cause,” Darren Boyle, 45, of Jackson Township, a corporate banker with Huntington Bank, said about why he participated.
The food bank did its part trying to keep folks awake and alert, offering Starbucks coffee and a disc jockey who blasted upbeat music.
Everywhere you turned, the nonprofit agency was awash in orange — from the Operation Orange T-shirts that all the volunteers wore to the orange balloons. Orange was the color of Hunger Action Month.
US Foods, FedEx, Cintas and Akron Children’s Hospital were among the companies that sent waves of workers to help. The Dominion Foundation also donated $10,000.
Dan Flowers, president and chief executive officer of the food bank, noted that the agency had about 5,000 people volunteer all of last year.
“In the past 24 hours, we’ve had over 1,000 come in,” he said. “Essentially, we did 2.4 months worth of volunteer work in 24 hours.”
While Operation Orange served a practical purpose of getting a lot of work done, it also helped raise awareness of the agency and was an open house of sorts for many who had never visited the site, Flowers added.
The community responded so well that the event likely will return next year.
“It’s been an overwhelming success, so we’re in,” said agency spokeswoman Kat Pestian, one of the few folks who stayed up all 24 hours.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.