Sus Manos Gleaners CEO: ‘We Want People to Know the Food is Not Coming From Americans’

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

san2The barrels of dehydrated produce Sus Manos Gleaners sends to countries where hunger is widespread always arrive with labels affixed to them. It's the Georgetown Township's Christian nonprofit way of communicating its deepest priority.

"We have labels that say 'in Christ name,'" says Jim Paauw, Sus Manos' board president and CEO. "We want people to know the food is not coming from Americans. We want people to know this is what Christians do in Christ's name."

The very name affirms the nonprofit's heart. Sus Manos is Spanish for "His hands."

'We're His hands'
"We're the hands, His hands," affirms Paauw.

Launched in 2008, Sus Manos accepts a fruits and vegetables farmers donate that would otherwise have likely ended up in a landfill or be fed to livestock.

Instead, Sus Manos accepts the food from famers, corporations and individuals at a donated warehouse. Volunteers then wash, chop and prepare the produce — such as apples, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and cabbage — for dehydration.

Drying them out reduces shipping costs while maintaining the majority of the produce's nutrients. Dehydration, in other words, will take 3,000 pounds of produce and turn it into 180 pounds so they can be transported to around 39 countries, including Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, Panama and Haiti.

Nutritional meals
Upon arrival, Christian overseas missions ensure the fruits and vegetables are re-hydrated and compounded into a soup base and fruit snack to maximize its nutritional value.

"Each barrel equates to 6,500 meals in it, so on a Saturday we're making 12,000 to 13,000 meals," says Paauw. "When we're up to around 30 barrels, we start shipping them out, which is 250,000 meals. We'll make a shipment four times a year, so that's somewhere close to a million meals a year."

As impressive as that is, Sus Manos could accomplish more if additional volunteers enlisted to help.

"Our biggest issue is we need more volunteers," says Paauw. "We're not at our fullest potential that's for sure."

Held hostage
The challenge Sus Manos faces is sometimes ensuring the containers arrive at their intended destination. Occasionally the people responsible for its distribution meet with some hair-raising turn of events, such as in Haiti.

"We just heard an update today about some produce we shipped to in Haiti around Christmas time that has been held up in a secure warehouse in Port-au-Prince for several months due to severe unrest," says Paauw. "We finally sent a truck this week with a two-man crew, along with a paid police officer as a guard, to bring some food barrels to two orphanages in the northern part of the country. The food made it through to those missions but our crew got taken hostage on the drive back (usually a death sentence). Fortunately they were released after several hours and having their pay and the officer's gun stolen.

"We were shaken by this but our driver simply said, 'This is the situation God has put us in, and it is He that protects us on Earth and for Heaven's glory.' We obviously are going to have to re-think our strategy, but it's a shame these actions have to interfere with getting desperately needed food to starving orphans."


Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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