From outside Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, it might have sounded like a football game or a party was going on in the church basement.
There were chants, cheers and lots of shouting, but it was all for a good cause: to help the Food Bank of Western New York serve its needy clients this holiday season.
About 70 members of the congregation, along with a few visitors from Parkside Lutheran Church, packed 20,000 meals into cardboard boxes in a little more than an hour after the regular Sunday service.
“This is a way for us to put our faith into action,” said the pastor, the Rev. Lee Miller II.
“I think it’s a great way to contribute to the church and the community,” Holy Trinity church member Tim Taylor said over the din.
“It’s pretty cool,” agreed his 12-year-old son, Cameron.
The food came from Outreach, a national organization based in Iowa that specializes in emergency supplies. The volunteers packed 36 bags of macaroni and cheese, fortified with soy protein, into each box. Today, the boxes will be driven to the Food Bank and from there distributed to some of its 350 member agencies in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
Each bag can be made into six meals.
Jeremiah Smith, the church’s youth director, said the original plan was to send 5,000 of the meals to New Jersey to help Superstorm Sandy victims, but word came that supplies there were adequate, so all the food remained local.
“To prepare 20,000 meals, it cost $5,000,” Miller said.
The money was raised through Lutheran Charities of Western New York, part of the Lutheran Social Ministries organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Food Bank ships about a million pounds of food per month to its member agencies, spokesman Michael Billoni said. They serve about 101,000 people each month, including 41,000 children and 9,000 senior citizens.
“I like the fact that it immediately helps the children, the hungry,” parishioner Melinda Tremblay said. “I have a child of my own, and I couldn’t imagine him being hungry. It’s very scary to me to know how many children are going hungry.”
She said she took part in another Food Bank packing event in October at Sky Zone in Cheektowaga.
Billoni said the next major Food Bank event is Food2Families, set for Friday at all Tops Markets in the four counties the Food Bank serves. He said Tops shoppers can buy “little brown bags of hope” for $5, $10 or $20. The bags contain food for the organization’s agencies.
Billoni said events like these are most common during the holiday season. “The need,” he said, “is so great.”