Osceola Service For Life Day hopes to inspire communities
Making an impact on worldwide hunger can be a daunting task at the least. It’s often difficult to find the right organizations, the right people, and the right way to give back to make a dent in this prevalent problem. However, certain successful charities are paving the way for others to follow. Breaking records year after year, one of those charities is the Osceola Service For Life Day.
“We named our charity Osceola Service for Life Day because we wanted the kids and other volunteers to understand that their act of service was in fact saving kids from dying of starvation and malnutrition related illnesses,” says charity sponsor Joel Hazzard. Joel and his wife, Heidi, work closely with hunger charity, Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), that packages and distributes food to those in need worldwide. All it took was one event for inspiration to strike.
“Eight years ago, Heidi and I participated in a Feed My Starving Children Mobile Packout Event in Chisago Lakes,” says Joel. “My heart was deeply touched by this charity so I asked one of the FMSC Staff at the event what it would take to start our own event.”
Sticking to the original format of the FMSC event their first year, the Hazzards quickly saw an opportunity to increase the food they packaged.
It didn’t take long for things to ramp up in the amount they were able to give to those in need.
“That first year we learned a great deal in that we needed to deviate from the model of having multiple two hour shifts,” says Joel. Instead, the Hazzards decided to shift the entire process by bringing in high school students for a full day working alongside friends, family, high school staff and parents.
“This change proved to be very rewarding as the number of meals we packed out that second year exceeded 300,000 total meals,” he says. “We quickly became the most productive of any FMSC packout events regarding total meals packed per person per hour.”
After six more years, the Osceola Service For Life Day event continues to break records in the number of meals packaged and shipped. Hoping for yet another successful event, their seventh year was met with unexpected challenges that raised some concerns.
“Ten days before the event, the student signups lagged well behind previous years as only 44 kids had signed up,” says Joel. “To help bump up the number of student volunteers, the Monday before the event Heidi and I showed up at the high school and greeted the kids as they came to school and gave them a breakfast snack and a flyer about our event and encouraged them to rally each other and their parents to volunteer.”
Piling on to their concerns, a winter storm was predicted to have a major impact on travel conditions to the point of FMSC nearly pulling the plug on the event. With dedication to make the event happen, the Hazzards pressed on to see a more successful event than they had ever seen.
“Despite the weather and the slow signups, this year’s event was our biggest ever and our seventh record year in a row,” says Joel. “We packed out 365,688 meals with 250 volunteers in 6.5 hours. That equals 937 meals packed out per minute. Our meals this year will feed 1001 starving kids for an entire year. We had many family and friends get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive over 60 miles through the difficult roads in order to help. Starvation doesn’t stop because we get five inches of snow.”
“Paul Elfstrom not only stayed late to help us setup on Friday but also was up at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning plowing the high school parking lot and stayed through the event helping load two semi trucks with all of our packed out meals. The high school students, staff, alumni, and parents braved the difficult roads and joyously showed up at 7:30 a.m. and worked incredibly hard to make this year a complete success.”
After seven record and back breaking years, the Osceola Service For Life Day event has packed out a staggering 2,108,508 meals that have been shipped to communities in the most need worldwide. The event has also contributed yearly donations to 44 local sports, clubs and events and has awarded 65 scholarships to students who dedicated their time to the cause. After so much time and dedication, the Hazzards have many people to thank in the community.
“The community of Osceola, our family, friends and alumni are incredible,” says Joel. “So many give up their Friday afternoon to help setup and their entire Saturday to come and help us pack these meals. Our two kids, Hannah and Tucker do a great job helping recruit alumni to come back and help out each year.”
“I would like to personally thank Bob Schmidt and his awesome staff who work tirelessly to help setup and cleanup before and after the event, Bobbie Blattner and her team for making sure all the volunteers are fed, Jeff Hahn who has volunteered his time to create an automated signup registration system, and a special thank you to all the high school staff, teachers and students for volunteering their time and energy.”
The Hazzards also wished to thank Feed My Starving Children who is an integral part of the Osceola Service For Life Day event and others delivering 355 million meals around the world. Programs like this prove that helping those in need is possible and hope to encourage others to help any way they can.
“We are so grateful to the Osceola Community,” the Hazzards said. “It is our hope that this event may inspire other communities to help any way that they can.”