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ETSU students, church volunteers pack 30,000 meals for Harvey, Irma victims

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People in our region continue to give back to those who lost so much in Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

On Thursday night, a local church and students from ETSU packed 30,000 meals that will be sent to victims in Texas and Florida.

Pour, seal, pack, repeat. Lending a hand to those that need help the most, volunteers from ETSU joined forces with Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

"Everybody has a part they can do and it's just a lot of fun," pastor Gerald Casson said.

ETSU student Olivia Wagstaff is putting her major in dietetics to good use.

"It's a passion of mine to help people get good nutrition," she said. "And if I can help in any way that I can, I'm going to take that opportunity."

Each of these bags takes just seconds to assemble and can feed up to six people.

30,000 meals breaks down like this:

-3,000 pounds of rice

-1,300 pounds of soy protein

-150 pounds of dehydrated vegetables

-5,000 vitamin, nutrient packets

And organizer Valerie Carpenter said these meals can last up to two years.

"So we can send them and if they don't use them in the pressing situation, they can store them for school lunches, for another time," Carpenter said.

Normally the group Rise Against Hunger sends 90% of these meals overseas. But this year, with two major hurricanes in a row, these boxes are needed here.

"So many, so close, right here? This is what we have it for," Carpenter said. "We did ship meals for Superstorm Sandy, that kind of thing. We're just trying to be prepared."

Carpenter said they've already sent 45,000 meals to victims of Hurricane Harvey. So everything that's put together here will be sent to Irma victims.

The pastor of Wesley Memorial UMC grew up on the Gulf Coast, so this really hits home for him.

"We've evacuated from hurricanes a couple of times when I was younger," Casson said. "So I really feel for those folks and all they're going through right now."

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