Local Sears stores pitch in to help Japan's children



CASSIANO
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Sears Home Town stores in Tilton, Plymouth and Rochester are seeking donations of $22 to purchase VitaMeal packages, such as this one on display at the Route 3 store in Tilton. Each package contains a nutritious food supplement designed to feed a child one meal a day for a month. Store owner Noel Cassiano hopes to ship 1,000 of the packages to Japan to assist in recovery efforts in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on March 11. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011
TILTON — When Noel Cassiano heard an elderly Japanese man tell a CNN correspondent he had lost his wife, son and grandchildren in the devastation of the 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed earlier this month, he realized he had to find a way to help those affected by this double tragedy.

"That just crushed me, to see that man lost his whole family, and I knew I had to put my selfishness aside and do something," Cassiano said.

Noel turned to his wife, Holly, who works as a distributor of NuSkin personal care products. While involved in the skin care industry, the corporation also has worked extensively over the past several years to bring nutrition to third world countries where children are malnourished. Through research, NuSkin has produced and packaged a product called VitaMeal, a vegetarian, non-dairy supplement that can provide a child with one nutritious meal a day for one month.

Since its launch in 2002, NuSkin's Nourish the Children campaign has provided more than 200 million meals to children around the world, including those caught up in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

VitaMeal, the corporation says, is a food product designed to fit every culture, as it can be complemented by any local food additives that may be available or can be eaten as is. Each package contains a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fiber. It also has essential vitamins, fatty acids and electrolytes to promote healthy living and normal development in children.

In 2009, Holly became very involved in helping to provide VitaMeal packages to children in Malawi, where starvation is the leading cause of death, and has worked to continue to support those in need.

"The president of Malawi actually thanked us and said no one died in his country that year because of the food we sent," she said.

As owner of three franchised Sears appliance stores in Tilton, Plymouth and Rochester, Noel felt he could merge his customer base with NuSkin's endeavors to provide nutrition for Japan's citizens as they struggle to recover. He was grateful when Sears backed his endeavor, and hopes other Sears stores across the state, and even New England, will soon join the cause.

"All we're asking is that people call or stop by our stores and purchase a $22 bag of VitaMeal to be shipped to Japan. Sacrifice 70 cents a day from their coffee and donuts for a little while, and make a difference," he said.

The campaign to help feed children in the hardest hit areas of the country got off the ground last week, as news of possible radioactive contamination of food and water came across the news channels, making Cassiano even more determined to help Japanese residents.

"I don't want to fail. In fact, I'm really hoping we can even surpass the thousand bags I hoped to get shipped out," said Cassiano.

He and his wife have been involved in mission work to feed the homeless, and are firm believers in helping others. Through this latest initiative, they hope to gain the support of local residents, churches, civic groups, and even companies who might be willing to assist by starting their own companywide initiative for the purchasing bags of VitaMeal for the children.

"We're also willing to talk to schools and explain the product and how children here can help other children in Japan. We're really just opening ourselves up to make this objective happen," he said.

Anyone who would like to contribute, either as an individual or as a group, may do so by stopping at either of the three Sears Home Town locations in Rochester, on Route 3 in Tilton or on Route 25 in Plymouth. Information and samples are on display to show how the nutritional packages help. Cash and checks are being accepted for the meals but there are also are forms available for those who wish to pay by debit or credit card.

"We're looking for any help we can get, and hope New Hampshire can come together — the average citizens, not just the big corporations — and really make this happen. I don't think there's anything we shouldn't do to try and help them," Cassiano said.

For more information on VitaMeal, people can visit www.nuskin.com. To contribute locally, people are asked to stop in any of the local Sears Home Town stores involved in the project or call 707-9934 with any questions or offers of assistance.

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