Church group eschews food for 30 hours to feed hungry children

Skid-row-style box cities aren’t common in La Cañada Flintridge, and neither is serious hunger. But this weekend, members of La Cañada Unified Methodist Church built a shantytown on Oak Grove Avenue and deprived themselves of food in an effort to put the focus on hungry children elsewhere in the world.

Starting at 12:30 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, 20 youths, 14 and older, and their chaperons from the church drank only water and juice, slept outdoors in cardboard boxes on the church grounds, and raised funds as part of World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine program.

Karyn Kemmerer, one of the church’s teen co-leaders for the event, said Friday the participants already had raised more than $1,000 toward their goal of $3,600. Kemmerer said the $3,600 figure was picked by the participants. According to World Vision, that’s enough to feed 10 children for a year. This year’s funds are heading to the Horn of Africa, said Kemmerer.

Katharine Henry, the other co-leader, said the 30-Hour Famine is more than a fundraiser. It helps young people here understand what it is like to be truly hungry. It also helps them understand that millions of children around the world experience that feeling every day, she said.

Last year’s 30-Hour Famine project featured a concert, Henry said, but this year the church aimed for more active participation and partnered with the youth groups from the Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church in the Foothills.

“This is our biggest group we’ve had,” she said. “We’re doing more activities. Instead of a concert, we are actually going to go outside of our church and we’re going to protest hunger.”

On Friday afternoon, Kemmerer said, the group was to go to Old Pasadena for an “awareness protest.” On Saturday morning, participants planned to set up outside the Ralph’s supermarket at Foothill Boulevard and Gould Avenue to collect donations for the MEND Emergency Foodbank in Pacoima.

World Vision, according to its website, is an international Christian relief, development and advocacy organization working to combat poverty and injustice.

Roughly 11,000 children die of hunger each day around the world, according to the organization. Henry said the number was at 12,000 deaths a day when she first participated in the program three years ago, and that seeing it drop helped motivate her.

“When I was participating and not leading, I found it gives youth a lot of perspective,” she said. “Youth can get involved and it can be a catalyst for doing more service-involved projects in the future.”

Her younger brother, Chris Henry, 14, took a break from setting up the box city to say he enjoys the effort.

“It’s a really good cause, and we believe in it,” he said. “ It’s also a lot of fun, because you really get close to the other people and get to make new friends.”

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