Written by Mitch Friesenborg // Photo by Balazs Balassa
Dozens of Harding students with plastic gloves and hairnets gathered around funnels in the rotunda of the McInteer Bible and World Missions Center on Tuesday, Nov. 1, to pack meals with The Pack Shack, a nonprofit organization that provides provisions and opportunities for communities across the country.
The event was organized and hosted by the Honors Student Association (HSA). Created in 2013 in Northwest Arkansas, The Pack Shack has packed over 41 million meals with help from nearly 200,000 people across the country. Harding alumnus Bret Raymond is the co-founder and CEO of the organization.
“When The Pack Shack started, we were tasked by the community with doing three things,” Raymond said. “Number one: increase awareness about food insecurity in local communities. Number two: give everyone in those communities a way to provide food for their community. Number three: encourage them to be involved with the organizations in their communities that are doing great work to help people in need.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Pack Shack had locations in Arkansas and Ohio and looked to expand to new locations in Dallas and Las Vegas. The organization shrunk in size during the pandemic, but the mission remained the same: to supply provisions and opportunities for neighbors in need, Raymond said.
“I don’t know that it’s as much about the personal gratification as it is the knowledge that we do this because we serve a king who’s pretty passionate about taking care of his kids, and we get to participate in that,” Raymond said. “Knowing that it brings a smile to God’s face, that his kids are being taken care of, it’s all we need. The other stuff is the cherry on top.”
Junior Isaac Raymond, president of the HSA and Bret Raymond’s son, was present for the party in the McInteer Tuesday morning.
“Having grown up constantly being around people that are compassionate and are actively doing things to help their communities, it changes how you see people and how you see the world,” Isaac said, referring to his involvement with The Pack Shack over the last decade.
Dr. Andrea Morris, assistant to the provost for strategic initiatives, packed meals alongside the students. Since coming to Harding this summer, her mission has been to raise awareness about food insecurity in local communities. She decided to start right on campus, where some students may be suffering from an issue that many of their peers are unaware of. The food packed in the McInteer will be distributed by New Horizons Ministries as part of their food pantry activity Saturday, Nov. 5.
“It helps to begin the conversation, so I’ve been walking around talking to students and reminding them that they are now a part of this very important effort to alleviate families from not having food,” Morris said. “The inconsistency in meals — what they are packing right now is helping to solve that. It is so exciting, and they are having fun. They are seeing the efforts of their hands and feet, being packed up, and I’m reminding them that it’s going to be given out on this Saturday.”
The 75 people who attended the event packed 10,200 meals.