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Working for peanuts

Eagle’s Trace volunteers make 4,762 jars of peanut butter for charity

Created date

March 20th, 2012

Who doesn't love the scent of roasted peanuts? For those who live on Houston's north side, that scent is the only telltale sign of what goes on in a nondescript building off Hafer Road. Inside, a peanut butter cannery, run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, produces close to 100,000 jars of peanut butter annually. Since 2000, the church has partnered with the Houston Food Bank to provide the oft-requested staple to families in need. The church provides the facility; the Houston Food Bank provides the funding for the peanuts; but it takes manpower to work the production line. That's where Houston-area volunteers come in.

Willing to work

Eighteen volunteers from Eagle's Trace, Erickson Living's West Houston community, signed up for a shift in mid-January. After a safety briefing, the volunteers suited up for work, donning aprons, hairnets, earplugs, and gloves. The jobs went all the way down the line, says Pat Osborne, chairman of the Eagle's Trace community outreach committee, which initiated the service project. They included putting the empty jars on the turnstile, wiping off excess peanut butter before the jars were sealed, making sure the lids were screwed on properly, and affixing the labels.

I Love Lucy rerun

Once the process got under way, the pace of the assembly line kept volunteers on their toes. We felt a little bit like Lucy and Ethel, says Pat, referring to the memorable I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy and Ethel work the assembly line at a chocolate factory, only to find themselves in over their heads. In reality, though, the volunteers from Eagle's Trace worked proficiently, filling more than 4,000 jars of peanut butter during the four-hour shift. They made 4,762 jars of peanut butter, to be exact. Just ask Jack Cinque. The retired chemical engineer stacked the cases on pallets as they came off the assembly line. While he worked, he couldn't help but do the math. We loaded six full pallets of peanut butter, says Jack. When you consider there are 27 ounces in a jar, 12 jars in a case, and 66 cases in a pallet, that works out to 8,019 pounds of peanut butter. In all, we processed more than four tons of peanut butter. That can help a lot of families.

Helping those in need

Peanut butter is an important commodity to the food bank, says Fred Hinson, corporate liaison for the church. It's high in protein, it doesn't need to be refrigerated, and it has widespread appeal. The Houston Food Bank services more than 37,000 people each week, about 47% of them children. As a token of appreciation, each volunteer took home a 27-ounce jar of peanut butter after the shift. The workers were eager to taste the results of their labor. It's delicious, says Jack. There's really nothing better than peanut butter.