The charity Feed My Starving Children is the thread that runs through Adam Claude and Chara Juneau’s love story.
They met via Facebook when Claude was planning a meal-packing event for the Minnesota-based nonprofit. The pair became a couple and spent many date nights scooping and sealing meal bags.
On New Years Eve, surrounded by 75 friends and family members, they wed at Feed My Starving Children’s Coon Rapids location.
The bride, holding a bouquet of delicate white flowers, walked down the aisle while holding her father’s arm. Juneau’s mother helped her fashion her white tulle skirt.
Afterward, guests and the wedding party slipped on the charity’s signature hairnets and packed meals for an hour, grooving to music chosen by the couple. The meals will be shipped to Sierra Leone.
The couple, who describe themselves as minimalists, said a big, extravagant reception would have felt out of character with their values.
“We wanted the day to mean something,” the bride said.
Claude, 37, owns his own IT consulting firm and, in his free time, co-founded the Twin Cities Christian Fellowship Group. Juneau, 35, is a wedding photographer who has seen firsthand how weddings can take on a life of their own.
At first, they toyed with marrying at the courthouse, but then a Feed My Starving Children staffer quipped: “You should get married here!”
An unusual idea, but it made sense.
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we do something different?’ ” Claude said. “We would rather go to Feed My Starving Children and use it as an opportunity to pack meals. We’d rather raise money for kids and use this as an opportunity to serve.”
Founded in Coon Rapids in 1987, the international Christian nonprofit provided more than 330 million specially formulated meals last year to hungry children and families in more than 70 countries. Schoolchildren, families, corporate and church groups across the country volunteer to pack those meals made up of rice, soy, dried vegetables and vitamins.
The couple, who will live in Plymouth, mentioned the charity-themed wedding idea to their friends.
“They all said, ‘That’s amazing. I want to come!’ ” Claude said.
Their parents also loved the idea. They sent out invitations via Facebook.
“It’s neat to see everyone is so excited,” Juneau said.
For the ceremony, the couple brought in some twinkling lights, tulle and bouquets for the bridesmaids, but kept decorations to minimum.
“I want it to still feel like Feed My Starving Children,” Juneau said.
Afterward, the couple and their guests dined at a favorite restaurant.
Feed My Starving Children doesn’t typically host weddings, but volunteer groups do sometimes come in as a way to celebrate an anniversary or birthday, said the nonprofit’s development manager Judy Watke.
Watke met the groom about eight years ago as he organized packing events for his fellowship group.
“He is the most engaging, enthusiastic, generous, single young adult I have ever met,” Watke said. “He works so hard at it.”
Claude has also raised more than $100,000 online for Feed My Starving Children through give.FMSC.org/AdamClaude.
Over the years, Watke and Claude had some heart-to-heart discussions about his future and what he was looking for in a soul mate.
“When I met Chara for the first time, I was so excited for them and the possibilities,” Watke said.
The day before the couple became engaged, they were packing meals and it was Watke who quipped that they should marry there.
Claude proposed. Juneau said yes.
“They called and said, ‘Are you serious about hosting a wedding?’ ” Watke said.
She figured it fit right in with the nonprofit’s work building relationships.
“We have strong relationships with the children and families we serve,” Watke said. “Our job is to build those same relationships with volunteers and donors.”
Even the couple’s honeymoon has a Feed My Starving Children connection. Claude submitted the winning bid for a week’s stay at a villa in the Virgin Islands at the charity’s annual gala and auction.