VALPARAISO | As pop music blasted from overhead speakers Saturday, nearly 700 volunteers made short work of the annual Opportunity Enterprises Pack-a-thon.
The effort, which employs community volunteers to pack 43,000 goody bags for runners in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October, wrapped up in record time, said Cathy Kuchenmeister, volunteer and intern coordinator for OE.
“We had the perfect amount of people,” Kuchenmeister said. “We started at 7:45 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m.”
Volunteers, fueled by free coffee and doughnuts, manned rows of tables in a large warehouse and stuffed free items and information into bags in assembly-line fashion, all while rocking out to music spun by a deejay.
“The music keeps everybody happy and keeps the pace going,” Kuchenmeister said. “Everyone was very productive today.”
Volunteers were treated to pizza and pop after the event to replenish calories burned from feverish stuffing.
Kuchenmeister said students from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties and Valparaiso University and Purdue University North Central are key to the event’s success.
“We love the community support and all the people who come and help us,” Kuchenmeister said.
Four student council and Key Club members from Washington Township High School were part of a group of 30 students from the school who helped.
“It’s fun and nice to give back,” said Megan Augustinovich, 18, a four-year veteran of the Pack-a-thon.
Heather Burton, 17, Alison Cruz, 17, and Jake Goodan, 18, said they enjoyed hanging out with their friends and meeting new people.
“Everyone made it fun,” Goodan said. “Everyone was happy and did the job.”
Ben Franklin Middle School science teacher Justin Treptow led a group of 50 students at the event.
Treptow, who has volunteered for 10 years, said the school has participated from the beginning.
“It’s a great way to get the middle school students involved in the community,” said Treptow, of Valparaiso. “It’s an easy way to help an organization that does such a great service to our community.”
OE events coordinator Alyse Kominakis said OE is paid by the marathon organization to stuff the bag. All funds raised will go to three-day and residential programs at Lakeside Opportunities, OE’s newest facility near Lake Eliza.
Kominakis said the organization hopes to net $19,000 from this year’s Pack-a-thon.
“We had a great time this year,” Kominakis said. “It was a good day."