NEWTON — Tim Sweigart at Kansas Electric has a group of employees who want to "go big or go home," and they want to keep working every day.


The result of that combination is a community event in November with a big goal — packaging 500,000 meals for the needy.


"We are going to shutdown our electrical contracting business in the afternoon for a whole week," Sweigart said. "We will have 70 tables set up to do this. ... My guys wanted to go big. They wanted to do a million, that is their spirit. I love that. I said let’s be realistic and do a half a million, that is still big and a lot of meals."


Even cutting that goal down by half, Kansas Electric will need help from the community to reach the goal.


Volunteers are needed in two-hour shifts, planning to package meals form 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 7, 1 to 9 p.m. Nov. 9-13 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 14. Any size group is welcome, with a maximum of 60 per shift. Children 10 and over are also welcome. COVID-19 social distancing guidelines will be followed.


"We have 25% of the volunteers that we need so far. We need to get the word out," Sweigart said. "We are trying to get youth groups and business groups as well as individuals. Groups of more than 15, if they call us direct."


Each meal packaged can feed six people — and, Sweigart said, keep his staff working during a slow period.


"We have been growing like crazy the last 10 years. This year with COVID, we hit a soft spot in our schedule. I decided to put them to work packaging meals for food banks," Sweigart said.


Founded in 2003, The Outreach Program was started by Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton of Union, Iowa. The program packages meals for use worldwide. Outreach has helped to package more than 550 million meals that have been distributed across the United States and around the world.


"They are really short of meals for people all over," Sweigert said. "They asked if we would host a public event to pack meals."


The nutrient-dense, shelf-stable, easy-to-prepare meals are in high demand in Kansas and across the U.S. by food banks and senior-service agencies that serve a vulnerable elderly population.


The pantry pack contains several bags of meals, including two cinnamon apple oatmeal packs, two macaroni and cheese meals, two rice and bean meals and one pasta with tomato-basil sauce meal. For donors who want to sponsor a package, each package costs $11.95 at outreachprogram.org.