On the Friday before Thanksgiving 175 people arrived at Midwest Food Bank, Morton, to prepare meals that will be given to food pantries throughout central Illinois. The spirit of volunteering and helping others is prevalent during the holiday season and businesses, families, churches, college students and athletes are looking for local places to serve. Volunteers arrived with the excitement of the season and left wanting to do more.

"The most common comment I heard was 'When can we do this again?'" Gail Thorson, staff member, said. This is a common reaction at Midwest Food Bank - people experience the value of doing something for others and they want to do it again.

These volunteers packed Tender Mercies meals - a product of MFB that is highly nutritious and requires only water to prepare. Tender Mercies consists of high grade rice, pre-cooked pinto meals, fortified chicken seasoning and a soy protein. It can be eaten alone or can be used in a variety of other ways.

Thorson serves as the coordinator for the Tender Mercies meal program for MFB and she sees first hand how people of all ages and abilities work alongside each other to measure, weigh, seal and box these meals. Volunteers often leave a event and inquire about how they can continue to support MFB. On that November day in Morton, about 75 percent of the volunteers were first-timers to MFB, a testament to the volunteer spirit in the area.

In total, the Morton location of MFB organized six Tender Mercies packing events in the fourth quarter of 2019. The volunteers at those events prepared abut 51,000 meals. In total, about 430 people volunteered 600 hours to help pack meals. It was a great way to end the year and look forward to 2020. 

In the photos below, volunteers are taking "Unselfies," photos which highlight something other than themselves.