More than 52,700 dry-packaged meals were put together for the hungry in Rome and Floyd County on Saturday. Close to 150 volunteers representing groups ranging from the Rome Rotary Club to SunTrust Bank and even the Georgia Highlands College men’s and women’s basketball teams jammed one of the buildings at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds to help create the meals which were then distributed to the Salvation Army, Action Ministries and Victory Baptist Church.

The project of the Rome-Floyd County United Way was originally expecting to pack 25,000 meals, but as the number of volunteers who registered grew through the last two weeks, the goal was upped to 50,000 and before the two-hour project was over Saturday, even that number was eclipsed.

Retired restaurateur Curtis Gardner was among those who showed up early to make sure he had a place on one of the many packaging assembly lines. Gardner worked with City Commissioner Evie McNiece, youngsters Wyatt Thornton and Grant Carpenter, and others on one of several Rome Rotary assembly lines.

“It just seems like a great thing to do to feed the hungry. I think it’s tremendously important to pay attention to the hungry, and Kelsey (Mitchell) has done a great job in rallying the troops,” Gardner said.

ddy Tripp, a representative of Meals of Hope out of Naples, Florida, the agency which provided the food, said Meals of Hope works with organizations all over the country to provide meals for the hungry. There are four different meals — the macaroni and cheese; the tomato basil pasta; an oatmeal; and a fortified beans and rice meal — that they have developed over the last 10 years. Volunteers in Rome on Saturday packaged the macaroni and cheese and tomato basil pasta meals.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Georgia Highlands College turned out to give something back to the community.

“It gives a great opportunity to our players to meet people, get some visibility and to give back,” David Mathis said. “They’re scholarship athletes, and most of them aren’t from Rome and Floyd County, so it gives them a chance to meet a lot of people outside of Georgia Highlands College.”

Janee’ Knorr, one of the women’s team members from Atlanta, settled in one of the assembly lines to help build the boxes to store the dry-packaged meals which have a shelf life of at least six months.

Chris Wright, a men’s team member from Kingston, New York, worked right next to J.R. Davis, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Georgia, who also brought a large delegation of youth from the club to help with the project.

United Way Executive Director Rich Lampkin said he was pleased with the turnout and happy to help provide meals to the hungry in Rome as well as generate some new enthusiasm for the United Way locally.