Dustin Lee found some time between running his two businesses and raising his three daughters to send a few meals to Haiti. Well, 249,480 meals to be exact.
The 35-year-old businessman started the Cedar Rapids chapter of Kids Against Hunger three-and-a-half years ago. Since then, Lee has lost track of the amount of food his non-profit has sent to impoverished communities in Nicaragua, Honduras, the Philippines, and of course, Haiti.
“I filed to form a 501 C-3, and before I know it, I’ve got an eight by eighteen trailer donated and fifteen volunteers,” Lee said. “It’s been an interesting ride.”
Lee’s and other Kids Against Hunger chapters throughout the state have been sending food to Haiti for years. And Lee says that while the memory of the tragic earthquake is starting to fade in most people’s minds, the need for nutrition and sustenance is as great as ever.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” Lee said. “Once (the earthquake) happened, there were a lot of people in Haiti, but hwere are they now? We’re not going away.”
This is the second truckload of meals Lee’s group has sent out since the island’s earthquake. The meals, a mix of soy, vitamins, rice and dried vegetables, are designed to literally reverse the affects of starvation and will go to Chicago by truck, and then to Miami by rail, where it will be taken into port in Haiti.
Lee says everything involved in his operation, from the food to the boxes they’re put in to the tape they use to seal it, is donated. When asked why people are so willing to give, to help others so far away, Lee points to his own reason.
“I started doing this because it’s exactly what I want to instill in my daughters: to give, not take,” Lee said. “I want to give back but not just through myself, but through my kids, and teaching them the value of helping others is important.”
When asked why helping others was important, Lee was at a loss for words.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” Lee said. “It’s just a value I treasure. Always have.”