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Canned meat

March 11, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

Canned Turkey slideshow

MARION, PA. -- It is almost 5 p.m.

The six industrial pressure canners have been puffing steam for 12 solid hours.

About half of the 48,000 pounds of chunked turkey thighs still sits in a huge cooler, waiting to be canned.

As the call comes to put another batch of cans in the pressure cooker, smiles flicker across the faces of Josh Voth of Kansas and Viktor Schwendich of Germany.

The men have spent the last two years touring North America, sealing meat in tin cans for the Mennonite Central Committee.

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Yet neither is tired of the task.

"To me, it is service," Voth said. "I could send money or I could give my time."

"And time is more valuable than money, so I give my time," Schwendich said.

Voth, 23, and Schwendich, 23, are two of four men who have spent the last six months helping organizations like the Cumberland Valley Relief Center on U.S. 11 near Pa. 914 can meat for impoverished people across the world.

Nathan Strite, the meat canning coordinator for the local relief center, said the Mennonite Central Committee spearheads the global food drive that in 2008 brought 631,848 cans of meat to the world.

The beating heart of the food drive is the tractor-trailer loaded with six industrial pressure canners, Strite said.

Voth and Schwendich, along with Steven Bricker of Chambersburg, Pa., and Peter Reimer of Canada, have driven the truck to 29 centers across the U.S., stopping for about a week at each destination to can tons of meat. The men have eight stops remaining.

At each stop, Voth said hundreds of volunteers help prepare and package the meat.

Strite said the crew in Chambersburg has the process down to a science.

"The trick now is to have enough work to do on Friday," he said.

More than 100 volunteers from Chambersburg lent their hands to the process, he said.

Between chopping meat, washing cans, making boxes and sealing cans, there has been enough work to keep volunteers working from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day since Monday, Strite said.

The Cumberland Valley Relief Center supplied the meat that will be canned this week through donations from area churches and individuals.

Strite said he was concerned the economy would prevent the center from raising the $80,000 needed to buy and ship the meat this year.

"But we have been blessed," he said. "We raised every penny."

Strite did not know how many cans the Mennonite Central Committee expected to fill in its 62nd year, but said Chambersburg will have filled about 26,000 cans at the end of the week.

As the next shift began to filter into the center, Strite said he is encouraged by the number of teenagers and young adults giving their time to the cause.

"It is encouraging to me to see that our younger generations want to give back and do something good to help someone else," he said.

Bricker, 28, who worked an earlier shift Wednesday, said he has never been sorry he gave his time to can meat.

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