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Ten Degree Weather Doesn't Slow Us Down

It was nice to wake up this morning to see this article in the South Bend Tribune. (I'm reposting it here to save you from a visit to the ad-heavy, pop-up-laced, clunky South Bend Tribune website). Granger Community Church members gather to aid in giveaway effort By HEIDI PRESCOTT South Bend Tribune Staff Writer

GRANGER -- Trodding through several inches of snow, Susanna Martino approached the door of a trailer carrying a box of groceries.

"It feels like this box has 800 cans of food inside," the bubbly 22-year-old said to several Granger Community Church members flanking her Saturday. It was darn cold outside to boot. "But this is not me complaining."

Martino climbed the stairs to find a Mishawaka woman propping open the door to her Oak Grove park trailer. The resident thanked Martino, of Edwardsburg, explaining how she doesn't get out much because heart problems make it hard to breathe sometimes.

And she asked if Martino and her friends would be taking food to the trailer of her cousin who lives nearby and is going blind. Yes, they reassured her.

"We believe everyone matters to God, so you matter to us," Martino said with sincerity, adding how the church would pray for her upcoming visit to the doctor.A few minutes later, Martino had a hard time putting the brief but emotional encounter into words. Instead, her eyes filled with tears as she softly said, "You wish you could do more."

Work to be done

Between 1,600 and 1,700 men, women, and children streamed out the doors of Granger Community Church shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday toward semi-trailers after receiving last-minute instructions in the vast auditorium for the food drop.

"Travel with your truck if you can," Jack Magruder, director of life mission told the group gathered for the 9th annual event taking place in Granger and in Elkhart, "The magic occurs when the boxes are delivered."

About 350 volunteers loaded boxes in Elkhart. But before deliveries are made to 12 nonprofit agencies and 12 neighborhoods in St. Joseph, Elkhart, Berrien Springs and Marshall counties like Oak Grove Mobile Home Park, there is work to be done. More than 5,200 cardboard boxes weighing a total of 158,400 pounds needed to be loaded onto semi-trailers and trucks. To accomplish this, throngs of volunteers stood shoulder-to-shoulder and passed the boxed items from hunger relief organization Feed the Children trucks down the line to delivery trucks. The boxes contained enough groceries to feed a family of four for five to seven days, as well as personal care items, church officials said.

"We came prepared," Martino said, alluding to the gloves, boots and layers of long sleeves she and her friends from Granger Student Ministries wore as they loaded Truck No. 4.

Making a difference

Rachel Ditto of Granger agreed the 11-degree temps were no big deal given what the food drop means, not only to her but the people she is helping. "It's a blast; this is an opportunity I look forward to every year."

And Ditto was not the only person to feel that way.

Many of the volunteers have attended two, three, four or more food drops. Parents and children, grandfathers and grandsons, work together to not only make a difference, but also to educate their children on the importance of helping others less fortunate.

"I'm here to help other people who don't have any of the stuff we have; to help the poor, people who have lost their jobs and are going through tough times," said 12-year-old David Flowers of Granger. He and his parents know the task does not have to require so many volunteers. The lines could be much shorter than 80 or 90 people. "But we're all putting our hands on the boxes," said David's mom Lisa Flowers, "and in a way we are giving them our blessing."

Chazwell Whitmer, 10, of Elkhart said he felt the need to attend the food drop with his parents "to do everything I can to help others."

Others maintain they want to take part for God.

"God gets really, really happy when you do this, and you'll go to heaven," said Lauren Landry, 8, of Berrien Center, who also helped pack boxes with canned food and paper towels ahead of time. Her mom, Susan, is not surprised by her daughter's kindness and generosity.

"It gives her pride to know she is making a difference in someone's life," she said. "You never know what situation you'll find yourself in. We do this behind the scenes, but it's fulfilling."

Staff writer Heidi Prescott: hprescott@sbtinfo.com