MCC’s quest to can again begins with crew

MCC’s quest to can again begins with crew

Image Credit: MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder

While most of the world continues to feel the pain of COVID, Mennonite Central Committee’s difficulties with putting together a full slate of meat canning stops on its annual meat canning tour has less to do with a virus and more to do with simply finding someone to become a fourth member of the canning team that travels all over the United States.

In the past MCC has always had four volunteers willing to commit to a two-year stint with the meat canning tour, driving a truck outfitted to fulfill the duties of canning chicken, turkey and other meats to send out globally.

However, this year has seen the normal schedule of stops sliced up, and according to MCC President Joe Miller, it’s a matter of finding someone willing to volunteer to serve.

Miller said the service is hard but fulfilling work, and he feels one of the reasons they have struggled to find canning crew volunteers is because parents encouraging their children toward voluntary service has waned.

He said MCC only had two of the four roles on the meat canning crew filled and had to contact a former canner to come in and serve as a third member. Normally, four canner operators travel with the meat canner to 34 different locations across the U.S. and Canada and help the volunteers at each location. That number has been cut back, and the amount of work done daily also has been trimmed.

“We said we don’t want to do more than four rounds of canning each day because it’s a lot for three guys,” Miller said. “We called Tristan in Paraguay because he had been a canner for two years, and we asked him if he was willing to come back. He was for this season, and he has become the lead horse on our team, which has been a huge blessing.”

Miller said in addition to finding a fourth member to allow them to fulfill the normal work, they also are having trouble finding a member with a commercial driver’s license who can drive the truck throughout each state on the tour. That has meant they have had to rely on volunteers from each state and each stop to help drive the truck.

“It’s been working out OK. It just takes a little more organization,” Miller said. “Our deepest desire right now is that we can find a fourth crew member and get back to a full slate of stops and canning at a full schedule.”

While this year’s tour is basically in place and will roll with three members, Miller said the concern is for next year when they face a dire need because they only have one of the current members committed to serve the following year. He said they need two new volunteers at a minimum and would like to have three to make a full complement of meat canning volunteers.

“I’ve been encouraging the local leaders at each stop to invite a young man who is looking to serve in a unique way. This is a tremendous opportunity to serve people around the world in a very meaningful way,” Miller said.

He said MCC will pay for CDL training, train them to become a licensed meat canner and processor, and help them build other skills that could lead to a career after their time serving MCC.

“After two years of serving and learning some great skills, it can be a great reference for a young man looking to find employment,” Miller said.

He said many times joining the meat canning tour has been a good way for young men to experience life away from home in a safe, faith-based community.

“It’s a great way to serve others and to grow in your faith,” Miller said. “It really is a wonderful way to experience life in a new and meaningful way.”

Miller said the current need is so great that MCC is willing to work with people who can’t commit to a full two years of service.

“If someone would have an interest in volunteering for a month or two to see what it’s like, we would be happy to make that happen,” Miller said.

In addition, he said MCC will work with volunteers to make sure they have a flexible schedule and are home for any meaningful events. They also have sent the canning crew overseas in the past to one of the nations receiving MCC’s meat donations to experience the joy they are helping to create.

If interested in volunteering, email Miller at joemiller@mcc.org or call him at 717-808-2417.