Packing school lunches on global scale

PORT ANGELES ­— It’s an afternoon, a morning or both, packing school lunches on a grand, border-crossing scale.

The first-ever Olympic Peninsula Meal Marathon on Saturday has two shifts: 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. — and an abundance of ambition.

Karen Coles of Port Angeles, together with the nonprofit Christian organization Children of the Nations, wants to package 100,000 meals to be sent to youngsters in Africa and the Dominican Republic.

She’s inviting volunteers to join her Saturday in the gym at Roosevelt Elementary School, 106 Monroe Road, for the morning shift, the afternoon or both.

Families, church groups, clubs, couples and singles are welcome, she said.

Coles is also hoping to find a restaurant or caterer to provide lunch for the volunteers.

The Meal Marathon coordinator can be reached at 360-417-8988 and

Register by Wednesday

Wednesday is the deadline to register as a volunteer.

This Meal Marathon is like dozens of others held across the United States each year to provide the packaged meals that Children of the Nations gives to kids in schools, feeding centers and orphans’ homes.

But the Port Angeles effort is unusual.

Despite the small size of the community, the marathon is aiming for a higher-than-average output.

“A hundred thousand is one of our bigger events for sure,” said Dave Spoon, the international feeding coordinator for Children of the Nations.

Twenty thousand to 50,000 is a more typical number at marathons elsewhere in Washington and in California and Florida, he added.

“Karen Coles is very driven, very vision-oriented,” Spoon said of the retired university professor who volunteered to organize Port Angeles’ Meal Marathon.

Via some 50 packaging events, 2.5 million meals will be sent to Malawi, Uganda, Sierra Leone and the Dominican Republic this year, he added.

Impoverished children receive the meals on an ongoing basis so they can attend school.

“We have cooks who cook the food daily for the kids. It’s supplemented with in-country spices and with meat on a good day,” Spoon said.

“We are not a relief agency. We are a holistic care organization trying to help children thrive.”

Children of the Nations’ website,, states the 16-year-old organization’s mission: “Partnering with nationals to provide holistic, Christ-centered care for orphaned and destitute children, enabling them to create positive and lasting change in their nations.”


Coles, who attends Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles, added that Children of the Nations is nondenominational.

She’s been volunteering with the nonprofit for eight years, has visited its headquarters in Silverdale — and with her husband, Ron, has traveled to its facilities in the Dominican Republic and Malawi.

“We feel so strongly about this,” she said.

At Saturday’s Olympic Peninsula Meal Marathon, teams of eight to 12 volunteers will work around a table to package and seal lentils, rice, spices, dehydrated vegetables and vitamins.

“This is a good opportunity to form a group made up of folks from many areas of your life,” Coles said, “such as fellow employees [and] family members.

“Children age 7 and older are encouraged to come with adults.”

Coles also welcomes donations to defray the $25,000 in food costs.

She’s raised about $20,000 so far and accepts checks made out to Children of the Nations and sent to her at 220 Mount Pleasant Estates Road, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

“Right in your own community,” said Spoon, “you can do something that will allow a child to live and to go to school.”

Those kids, he believes, can then go on to college and into positions of influence.

“Our vision,” Spoon said, “is to transform nations.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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