Helping Hands meals to Africa event exceeds expectations


Nearly 70 volunteers helped the event package meals.

Catherine and Madeline Smith learned that the Brevard County community is willing to fight hunger both financially and as volunteers.

The mother and daughter from Viera teamed up to form the fundraiser called Catherine and Madeline Smith’s Helping Hands meals to Africa event. Their goal was to raise $5,000 to fight hunger in Burkina Faso in Africa.

Catherine and Madeline Smith's Helping Hands meals to Africa event raised more than $5,000. | PHOTO BY MARC RHODES

“We raised about $5,400 before it was said and done,’’ Catherine Smith said. “Some people asked me what I was going to do if we didn’t make the goal. I joked that I would turn people upside down and shake them for money.’’

The Smiths knew that not everyone would be able to write a check. She urged volunteers to help unpack a truck with supplies to help them set up for packaging meals. Then, other volunteers would be needed to package meals during a potential 2 hour and 45 minute time period. Smith said one volunteer could package approximately 120 meals in an hour.

After the packaging, five to 15 volunteers were needed to help clean up and pack the truck with the boxed meals. Everyone needed to be able to lift at least 50 pounds.

“I was overwhelmed when I got there (Shining Starr Learning Academy in Rockledge) and saw people waiting in line to help,’’ Smith said. “We needed 40 volunteers and we got close to 70. It was humbling and just amazing. With all the help, the packaging took us only about 1½ hours at most. I am so grateful.’’

Two fundraisers — at the Burger 21 in Viera and at Chick-Fil-A on Wickham Road — also were successful. Both restaurants offered 10 percent of their sales on a given day to the cause for customers who mentioned the fundraiser while ordering.

The Smiths, who worked with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to set up Helping Hands, also volunteered to work for businesses who would donate.

“We cleared tables at local restaurants and waxed floors,’’ Smith said. “A lot of places donated without asking us to work. We worked for food, but the food was for others.’’

Initially, the Smiths quickly received donations before a lull set in.

“We then started mailing 50 letters a day to businesses,’’ Smith said. “We raised the money in about six weeks. A lot of the businesses told us to let them know earlier if we plan to do it again.’’

Some of the businesses who helped Helping Hands include: Gymboree Play and Music of Melbourne, Massey’s Pest Control, Chick-Fil-A, Viera Voice, Shining Starr Learning Academy, Burger 21 in Viera, McDonald’s, Grill’s Riverside, Squid Lips, Toyota of Melbourne, Vincinos Pizza, Little Caesars Pizza of Rockledge, Target of Viera, Jill Mimbs — Allstate Insurance, realtor Amy Kalman of Dale Sorensen, Locked Inside Escape Room of Indialantic, Smile Viera and Church at Viera.