WALNUT CREEK -- Two generations of 70 men and women, all clad in red T-shirts, and many sporting hairnets, packed a corporate meeting room filling quart-sized baggies with freeze-dried food -- adding an extra dose of vitamins and digestive enzymes.

Their hands kept moving, stopping only to cheer along with the celebratory gong when they had packaged another 1,000 bags that are bound for the malnourished and underfed in 73 countries.

For the first time, employees at the CSAA Insurance Group brought their parents to their workplace for a morning to give them a taste of what they do on any given day, including volunteering, a value which is embedded in its corporate culture.

"We all feel it's a calling," says Concord resident Jill Conrad, who does event planning and corporate communications at the company's Walnut Creek headquarters.

She cites other projects she and her associates do, such as sorting discarded crayons that will be melted and remade into new crayons for art therapy programs at children's hospitals, cleaning up trails, or stuffing teddy bears for the Monument Crisis Center.

In just over an hour on Jan. 19, the volunteer crew had packaged 6,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now. Last year, CSAA donated more than 330,000 bags of food to the San Leandro-based nonprofit.

On Bring Your Parent to Work Day, Conrad has a rare opportunity to stand across the table from her father, Mark Conrad, 80, who methodically vacuum seals the bags now ready for shipping.


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With his prior excursions to Africa, the Rossmoor resident has witnessed the starvation firsthand.

"You'd see it in their eyes, the color of their hair, the distended stomachs," says the retired insurance man. "These nutritional meals are key."

His wife Nancy also worked the vacuum sealer at a table nearby.

Once teaching nursing in Kampala, Uganda, she, too, knows of the telltale signs of being malnourished, noting the limited diet of rice porridge, beans and "the occasional sweet potato vine."

Injecting a dose of levity while helping out, she is reminded of the "I Love Lucy" episode when Lucille Ball frantically yet futilely tries to keep up on the chocolate assembly line.

"At least that took me back to some place fun," she says.

As was the case with her colleagues and their parents, Conrad had a palpable sense of the impact of their altruistic efforts.

"You think about the fact that there are families going to bed with a full belly. It's definitely not lost on you," she says.

"There's a sense of I'm putting food on the table for someone else."

Conrad credits her family with instilling this ethic of global outreach, growing up in a Mennonite household.

"It was just part of our culture," she says. "We were taught that it was important to lend a hand to your fellow man."

Meanwhile, Lafayette resident Susan Zib took the day off work as an art teacher in Orinda to package food, charged with holding the plastic bag beneath the dispensing funnel, while Conrad filled it with servings of rice and soy protein.

"I'm doing something to help others," Zib says.

Close by, Paige Auerbach inserts the vitamin pack.

"You just think of the kids who don't have food," says the Pleasant Hill resident.

And, Sherry Morse and her daughter -- two generations of accountants -- were part of the production line, with Morse assigned to add the freeze-dried vegetables.

"We were shocked that this little bag of food fed six people, that they survived on this," says the Pleasanton resident.

"It shed light about all we have, so much excess."

For more information, visit www.stophungernow.org.

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