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Hundreds drawn to help pack food in El Dorado for Haiti

EL DORADO —"Hoorah!" Robin Ribordy's nine children and two grandchildren shouted Friday afternoon as their second cardboard box loaded with dry food was sealed.

Ribordy and the children were among the 3,000 to 4,000 volunteers expected to attend a food-packaging event for Haitians at the El Dorado Civic Center Friday and today.

This is the second event sponsored by Numana Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by Rick McNary to fight world hunger.

The first event was Dec. 29-30, two weeks before an earthquake rocked Haiti on Tuesday.

"We think our first event had divine timing," McNary said.

Since the earthquake, the Salvation Army has become partners with Numana to make sure the first event's load, which will provide 285,000 meals, and this event's load, which Numana hopes will contain 570,000 meals, will be airlifted into Haiti as soon as possible.

Across the large room from the Ribordys, Paula Pearson, 67, and Irene Macy, 69, worked with others at one of the 20 tables set up to fill plastic bags with dry food. In each bag, volunteers packed rice, soy protein, freeze-dried vegetables and a tablet that contained 21 vitamins and minerals.

"This is such a small thing we can do to help," Pearson said.

"And it's actually really fun!" Macy added.

Loud rock music played, doing little to cover the buzz of excited conversation and laughter filling the room.

Each time a box was filled, its proud contributors, ranging from 8-year-old Sheaneah Ribordy to a bearded man with long hair in a do-rag, cheered happily.

The diversity of volunteers she saw at December's event drew Shelia Ottwell of El Dorado to the event Friday.

"How nice that all these different people are taking the initiative to help," she said.

Despite the positive spirit of the event, the seriousness of the disaster in Haiti was never forgotten as photographs from the country flashed across a large projection screen.

"We need to remember that this could happen to any of us," Ottwell said.

McNary welcomes anyone who would like to volunteer today at the food packaging event to come.

"We would much rather have too many volunteers than not enough," he said.

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