A place for volts and vitamins
Minnkota joins community partners to host Grand Forks Feed My Starving Children MobilePack event for a second year.
Hairnet in place and spoons filled with vitamins and veggies, Jen Regimbal bopped along to the music filling Minnkota’s Grand Forks fleet garage on March 25.
“Just hold on loosely, but don't let go,” the Minnkota human resource coordinator crooned along with the 38 Special hit. “If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control!”
Regimbal was joined by five fellow Minnkota volunteers for this shift of the Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) MobilePack, a two-day community event hosted at Minnkota’s Grand Forks headquarters facility. This is the second year Minnkota opened its doors to hundreds of volunteers in partnership with a Grand Forks-based FMSC fundraising and coordination group.
When Regimbal heard organizers were looking for a handful of Minnkota employees to assist with set up, ushering volunteers and packing food, she recruited her Minnkota crew to join her in making a difference.
“I jumped at the chance. I think it’s a fun, active way to volunteer,” she said. “I’m happy to be a part of it and happy to work at a place that gets involved.”
Minnkota employees joined volunteer groups from local schools, churches and businesses to bag more than 280,000 nutritionally complete meals, or FMSC “MannaPacks,” on March 25-26. Each bag of food contains powdered vitamins, dehydrated vegetables, soy and rice – a special formula for safely easing the hunger of malnourished children across the world.
Jim Martin, a Minneapolis-based FMSC volunteer program coordinator, says somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 children die every day from malnutrition-related illnesses. The mission of this Christian nonprofit organization is to start moving the needle in the right direction.
“In addition to putting food in the bellies of kids who really need it, we’re trying to also feed their spirit, to help them think about a future where they’re not worried about where their next meal is coming from,” Martin explained as volunteers filled and weighed MannaPacks nearby. “That gives them the opportunity to start really concentrating on their schoolwork and think about life beyond the next four hours.”
Partners for packing
Grand Forks’ Jodie Storhaug discovered the concept of the FMSC MobilePack in 2010 after she experienced a volunteer packing shift with her family in the Twin Cities. She brought the idea back to her church council at Calvary Lutheran, found more community partners to help with fundraising, and joined with her husband Bruce to pull off the first Grand Forks MobilePack in 2011.
“We had a vision of it not being just a church event, but rather wrapping the whole community into it – the church community, our businesses, our service groups,” Jodie said.
“It seemed like it would be more impactful,” Bruce added.
The event was successful from the start and continued for eight years at the Grand Forks Public Works facility. The Storhaugs were soon looking for a larger, more efficient site for the MobilePack in 2019 – and Minnkota’s new headquarters fulfilled every need.
“This facility is just phenomenal,” Bruce said. “The amount of space that’s available in the garage allows us have the event and to have enough room for everybody to be there. The big conference center allows everyone to be together to get their instructions.”
“The Minnkota staff is participating in the whole weekend, so we know that people are here not just for their Monday-Friday jobs,” Jodie said. “They’re stepping up and wrapping their hearts around this, too.”
Minnkota was prepped to host its second MobilePack in 2020, but the pandemic halted in-person volunteer events for two years. In 2022, Minnkota was ready to get back to the pack. Minnkota Facilities Manager Dave Whalen worked closely with both the Minneapolis FMSC group and the local team to ensure the tenth event was as powerful as the rest.
“It’s hard not to be upbeat and positive with them. It’s amazing. Their spirits are high,” Whalen said. “There’s passion behind it, and that just rubs off on others. It rubbed off on me, that’s for sure. I didn’t expect that.”
Commitment to community
As the first shift hit a goal number of boxes packed, applause and cheers erupted from volunteers in the garage. “See, there’s that enthusiasm!” Jim Martin shouted.
Strong encouragement from the community pushes the Storhaugs to keep creating these celebratory moments in Grand Forks year after year. Jodie says churches and businesses continually help them exceed the fundraising necessary to bring the event back. Those surplus funds serve as seed money for the community’s next event. “Being people of faith, we see that as God’s prompting to do it again,” Jodie said, smiling at her husband.
For Minnkota, the FMSC MobilePack is an opportunity to live out the cooperative value of Commitment to Community. Whalen anticipates Minnkota will continue to partner with FMSC and the Storhaugs as long as they need a helping hand (or many).
“We have built that relationship now. There’s a ton of support from our leadership team here. They’re all in, and I can see this going for a while,” Whalen said.
“One of the things that attracted me to working at Minnkota, and helps me to stay motivated, is thinking of how we do impact the members that we serve,” Regimbal said after filling her final MannaPack. “Even though this food isn’t necessarily impacting them directly, I think it’s a way to show we’ll open our doors to the people out there who are doing great things for others.”
2022 Minnkota MobilePack
By the numbers
- 2 days
- 1,248 volunteers
- 280,152 meals packed
- 768 kids fed for a year
- 41 local church partners
- 15 local business partners
- 5 school/service group partners