AKRON  The energy level was high and the expectations for completing much needed work was even higher as the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank hosted more than 1,800 community members during Operation Orange. The fifth annual 24-hour volunteer event, which started at noon on Sept. 8 and ended at noon Sept. 9, is held annually in celebration of Hunger Action Month.

The many volunteers committed to two-hour shifts throughout the 24 hours and completed numerous warehouse projects such as relabeling packages of fruits and nuts, packing up more than 170,000 of pears, oranges and potatoes for distribution and sorting and inspecting 31,000 pounds of frozen meat. The completion of these projects will allow the foodbank to distribute the equivalent of nearly 200,000 meals.

"We’re incredibly grateful for our friends, community members and network partners who are donating their time with us during Operation Orange," said President & CEO Dan Flowers during the kick-off presentation. "This event couldn’t happen at a better time because we have a warehouse full of produce that we bought in bulk. The pears and oranges we have today were hand-picked in California. All the food the volunteers touch today will be in the hands of those facing hunger in our community by next week."

Volunteers also sorted locally sourced apples. The foodbank continues to focus on offering nutritious, fresh produce for nearly 500 food pantries, hot meal sites shelters and other hunger-relief programs that directly serve individuals and families in Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.

Public Relations and Communications Manager Raven Gayheart said the annual event got its start when the Foodbank found itself with a freezer full of meat and needed to get it packed and ready for distribution.

"Staff people and their friends and family came in to work to get the meat ready and spent the entire Saturday here to get it done. They came up with the idea to make it an annual event and invite in the community and partners to help," Gayheart said.

To keep the energy levels up throughout the night, a DJ from Celebration in Sound DJ service entertained volunteers. Plus, a variety of events were offered such as a selfie station, trivia games and an hour of fun-filled dancing with local mascots. The who’s who of mascots included Webster from the Akron RubberDucks, Zippy from The University of Akron and Pozzie from the Canton Charge.

Debora Pellegrino from Westbrook Park United Methodist Church of Canton was one of the many volunteers. She was excited about helping to relabel and pack up the packages of nuts and fruits.

"We have a food pantry open every third Tuesday of the month and serve 70 families each month and I can’t wait to get these packages of fruits and nuts to hand out to our families," Pellegrino said.

Operation Orange was made possible through generous donations by title sponsor Dominion Energy, as well as Faith Family Church and US Foods. The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is a non-profit organization with a vision of a thriving community free of hunger. With one in seven people in Northeast Ohio facing hunger this year, the Foodbank is committed to helping those in need.

To learn more about the Foodbank and other ways to get involved for Hunger Action Month in Northeast Ohio, visit akroncantonfoodbank.org or hungeractionmonth.org.