Food program organizer sees that God led him into feeding kids
Jim Dodd believes that God set out stepping stones for him to follow, leading him to form a Food for Kidz satellite in Spokane.
The organization packages food for children, people in need and homeless people in Spokane and nationwide. Food also goes to schools (for back packs), shelters and food banks. It also goes worldwide to refugee camps and schools.
Jim and his family moved to Spokane Valley from Santa Ana, Calif., in 1970 when Jim was 10. His father, a Scout master, attended the 1969 Jamboree at Farragut Park and decided to move here. Jim was a Boy Scout in grade school and in 1975 joined the Spokane County Search and Rescue Unit, staying until he was 18.
His began his career as a mechanic and then went to work in his father's construction business.
In 1992, he began work as an electrician and in 2001 started Streetfire Engineering which sells and installs security systems.
"That gives me income that keeps me afloat, so I started volunteering," Jim said.
Using his search-and-rescue and construction skills, he volunteered after the 1996 ice storm, fires in Wellpinit, and hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Michael.
To find a local place to volunteer, he visited local nonprofits, including Partners International and Helping Reach Communities (HRC) Ministries.
When he said he had construction skills and helped during disasters, HRC Ministries first asked him to fix the doorknob.
"I had wanted to connect with people in medical outreach, food distribution or disaster response. I smiled as I adjusted the door knob with a screw driver," he said.
He learned HRC is also an acronym for Hank, Randy and Caleb, three generations of Altemeyers.
Jim began going with Pastor Randy to Catholic Charities, taking coolers of sandwiches for homeless people.
The HRC warehouse in the former Grocery Outlet by the old K-Mart on E. Sprague stores food for schools and small food banks.
One day, Caleb asked him to help find more food. Jim went on the internet to find places that would give food to HRC, thinking he could pick it up in his van.
In his internet searches, he learned about funnel packing, a process using a funnel to pour ingredients into food storage bags that are then vacuum sealed.
He talked with several firms that wanted upfront funding. The seventh was Food for Kidz, which has a warehouse in an old schoolhouse in Stewart, Minn., a town of 567.
"The owner, John Neilsen, answered. He said it was funny I called. Two days before he and a colleague talked about expanding to the West Coast," Jim said. "I told him I was a volunteer for HRC, an organization with a warehouse, box truck and forklift, that takes food to those in need."
When Jim talked with HRC, they were not interested because of a previous experience packing a lentil soup mix they couldn't give to homeless people, because it had to be soaked overnight and prepared in a kitchen.
When Jim told John that concern, John said the food was precooked and dehydrated. The rice and beans put in boiling water are ready in 15 minutes. The cinnamon oatmeal is ready in five minutes.
"We could be a satellite office," Jim said.
John told Jim to gather eight to 10 volunteers. He would bring 21 pallets with equipment and ingredients for 300,000 meals. On May 28, 2018, John came.
"My parents, friends and relatives packed 1,297 meals in an hour. We took pictures standing by the completed meal packets. HRC took the packets to schools the next day to go in backpacks for children to take home.
The Food for Kidz mission is to bring awareness to hunger by involving communities and volunteers to pack meals to distribute.
After leaving Spokane, John drove his truck to Portland for a load of truck tires to haul to Indiana. That paid for bringing the pallets to Spokane. John and other truck drivers spend many days in trucks delivering ingredients and equipment all over the U.S.
Food for Kidz returns to pick up packets that are not staying in a community because a donor wants them to go elsewhere. Food for Kidz fills shipping containers to send them abroad.
Realizing it needed a smaller warehouse, HRC Ministries told Jim, who agreed Food for Kidz would relocate in four months.
Jim scheduled packing events and used a box truck to go to churches and agencies where volunteers packed meals. The first place he went to hand out meals was Eastpoint Church in an old K-Mart at 15303 E. Sprague Ave., where Jim had shopped as a teen.
He told the director he was looking for a warehouse.
"They opened the back end and showed me the loading docks," Jim said. "A month later in August 2018, we moved there."
Since then, Food for Kidz has packed more than 2.5 million meals, including 40,000 at Sun City Church, 41,000 at the Yakima Convention Center, 10,000 at Valley Christian School, 8,000 at Broadway Court Estates and thousands more.
Nationally, Food for Kidz hosts about 150 events to pack about 10 million meals for needy children "around the corner and around the world." With volunteers and donations, it costs 25 cents a meal.
Locally, Food for Kidz operates out of Eastpoint Church, packing meals and delivering them in a box truck. Two months ago, Jim received 17 more pallets.
Because of coronavirus, they are rescheduling events, including a March event for 100 volunteers at Gonzaga University.
Jim has talked with churches, foundations, businesses and service clubs who donate funds and recruit volunteers. Donors decide where the food goes.
Jim has been twice to Adjumani, Uganda, a town near a refugee camp where Food for Kidz has a warehouse so local pastors can take meals to people in need.
Food for Kidz partners with Nourish Uganda based in Spokane. They recently filled a shipping container with 44,000 pounds of food, 285,000 meals to go to a school district north of Kampala, Uganda. The food at school is the only food the children have, he said.
The second place he took samples was Partners International, where he connected with Scott Steinlouski, now director of Refugee Relief, which took meals to refugee camps and schools in Uganda in October. Jim went then and in March with Nourish Uganda—helping cook for 250 children.
Jim has met with Jewels Helping Hands, Blessings Under the Bridge and Northwest Harvest to deliver meals. Three Food for Kidz distribution points are at Valley Real Life Church on Barker and at the Otis Orchards Campus, along with Eastpoint Church.
Jim said people who lost jobs in COVID-19 began volunteering, but then it had to cancel packing events. Since then he has automated the packaging process, so he can do it with five volunteers, rather than 50 to 100. Now he seeks donors to give money so he can continue to pack and ship meals.
Along with his journey into volunteering with Food for Kidz, Jim had a spiritual awakening.
He said his wife, MaryLynn, who grew up in Grand Coulee and graduated from Northwest Christian in Spokane, shares his commitment to Food for Kidz.
Although he was baptized, he said his parents, who had been pushed to go to church, wanted nothing to do with it. So he had little exposure to church other than a Bible study in fifth grade.
Jim's first wife's family was Greek Orthodox. He converted but they didn't go to church much in their 23-year-marriage. Five years after they divorced, he met MaryLynn at a hiking club.
Before he met her, Jim woke up one night with a vision of God in his bedroom. He asked, "God why are you not talking with me or telling me what to do?"
"Later, looking back, I saw that the Lord threw stepping stones in front of me," Jim said.
MaryLynn wanted a husband who had the Lord in his life, so she asked him to go with her to Mirabeau Chapel. The third time, there was a program on Compassion International. They began donating to support children. He felt that was a stepping stone. They later went to Sun City, Valleypoint and then Real Life churches. Now they attend Eastpoint Church.
Jim is amazed how his life has changed from having little religious guidance and focusing on himself, to reading the Bible daily and focusing his life on giving "every way I can."
When delivering food to an orphanage in Uganda a second time he looked to the sky and said, "Lord, slow down," and then quickly, "No don't."
For information, call 868-9262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2020