SOS: Dwight and Janis PetersonSOS: Dwight and Janis Peterson
Published in St. Louis Park Patch and Westwood's Celebration newsletter
From SLP to Tanzania, Food Goes a Long Way
A local couple has organized a massive food packing event at a St. Louis Park church for seven years. By day, Dwight and Janis Peterson lead busy lives. Dwight Peterson works as an IT manager and his wife, Janis, works as an administrative assistant. By night, the two devote their time to organizing one of the biggest and most successful volunteer events at Westwood Lutheran Church. The couple spearheads an annual food-packing event for those in need in Tanzania.
"When our church started a partnership with a church in Tanzania, my wife and I were fortunate enough to travel to the church to start building a relationship," Dwight Peterson said. "What we experienced was quite emotional." The Petersons were able to see first-hand the need for food in the poverty-stricken area. According to UNICEF, there are about 2.5 million orphans in Tanzania, half of whom were orphaned after their parents died of AIDS.
"After being there, you recognize the abundance of what we have here and it just opens your heart," Janis Peterson said.
Since their first trip about seven years ago, the couple has organized an annual, one-day food-packing extravaganza, where 500 volunteers fill the church and pack bag after bag of a specialized rice mixture.
"It’s really become a multi-generational family event," Dwight Peterson said. "It is great to see a grandmother pouring rice and a small child standing on a chair to seal it." The event, which is open to the public, will result in 100,000 meals sent to Tanzanian enough to feed 275 people once a day for one year. The Petersons transform the gym into the packing room and hang pictures of the children they will help on all of the walls.
"In the past, people have been very giving of their time," Janis Peterson said. "We are always grateful for the volunteers that make this contribution happen."
The Petersons, who have been members at Westwood Lutheran since the early 1980s, say this kind of event is just in their nature and invite everyone that wants to give back to come to the church on Feb. 25 to participate. "You feel exhausted at the end of the day, your feet hurt, but I guarantee your heart will feel great," Dwight Peterson said.