Knights prep nutritious packages, ship around the world

MORGANTOWN — St. John University Parish in Morgantown usually does its nurturing one soul at a time.

On Sunday, the place that is home to WVU’s Roman Catholic community was dealing in volume.

The decibel kind, as well as the marketing kind.

That’s why Gus Cruz had to yell into his microphone to be heard over the happy din.

“OK, this one’s really, really important,” he said. “You gotta wear a hair net. Whether you have hair or not.”

That’s because food preparation was the order of the day at the church down from the university’s downtown campus.

Cruz is a project coordinator with Cross Catholic Outreach, a ministry based in Boca Raton, Fla., that extends its collective hand across the globe to people in need.

One of Cross Catholic’s signature projects is its food ministry, whereby boxes brimming with bags of vitamin-fortified rice, beans and dried vegetables are packed in the U.S., then shipped and served up the world over.

Where bellies growl, the boxes go.

This past January Cross Catholic came to Preston County to do the same thing.

With the help of the local Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization that raised money and volunteers for the work, a total of 40,000 boxes were packed in one day.

Of the output, 36,000 went to Guatemala, with 4,000 staying home to be delivered to food pantries and other networks in West Virginia.

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The project was so successful that Sunday’s effort in Morgantown was overseen by the state offices of the Knights of Columbus after the organization saw the impact.

Knights members from across the region, plus other volunteers gathered at St. John’s for the assembly-line exercise in altruism.

Work stations were set up, with one person scooping in the soy.

Another adding the dried vegetables.

The precise, proper allotment of dried beans was administered by yet another.

Then, the final job: The vacuum-sealing of the whole deal.

The end result? A 13.76-ounce plastic bag of front-line nutrition that can each feed up to six people.

Another 40,000 bags was Sunday’s goal in Morgantown.

Organizers didn’t know where the bulk of the output was going, but such boxes are normally delivered to orphanages, churches and schools, Cruz said.

They did know that 36,000 boxes were addressed to somewhere, with 1,000 packages again staying in West Virginia.

Three-thousand were on their way to North Carolina and South Carolina, both swamped by Hurricane Florence last week.

Lydia Ferrell, 17, came over from her home in Preston with her twin brother, Shane, to pack bags and boxes for the day.

The like-looking siblings are also like-minded in their social outreach.

“I’m feeling good to be doing something that I know will actually help,” Shane said.

“It seems like such a small gesture,” Lydia mused.

“But look how far the food goes.”

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