PHOTOS Demand up, but Collier charities pleased with community’s holiday response

Drop-off locations for nonperishable foods are below:

■ Family Resource Center for Catholic Charities, 4209 U.S. 41 E., East Naples. For more information, call (239) 793-0059.

■ St. Vincent de Paul, 2874 Davis Blvd., East Naples. For more information, call (239) 775-1667.

■ Salvation Army, 3180 Estey Ave., East Naples. For more information, call (239) 775-9447.

■ St. Matthew’s House, 2001 Airport-Pulling Road. For more information, call (239) 774-0500.

— Southwest Florida charities are in the homestretch for getting toys and food into the hands of the needy for Christmas, yet one local charity hasn’t been able to provide fresh hams or turkeys to families in East Naples or Golden Gate.

But if donations of fresh turkeys or ham come in Tuesday or Wednesday, Catholic Charities will get them distributed, said Armando Galella, district director of Catholic Charities.

“It would have to be quick,” he said, adding that other food items have been donated.

In prior years, Catholic Charities got hams or turkeys from the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, but not this year.

Joyce Jacobs, associate director of Harry Chapin, which distributes food to more than 100 agencies in the region, said the agency only received about 500 turkeys this year for Christmas.

“They may have ordered when we didn’t have any turkeys,” she said. “For Christmas, we didn’t have a lot of turkeys. For Thanksgiving, we gave out 5,000 turkeys.”

Other than that, the community has been great in providing toys for the several hundred families served and the same goes for food.

“The need has been greater but the response has been good,” he said.

That sentiment was shared by Chris Nind, director of the Salvation Army in East Naples.

The agency had 1,500 families registered to receive Christmas presents and food for the holiday.

“The demand is certainly up and it is across the board, it is everybody. They were either laid off or their hours were reduced. People are hurting,” he said. “Food (donations) were down early on and the community stepped up and we got an increase prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

“The demand is certainly up and it is across the board, it is everybody. They were either laid off or their hours were reduced. People are hurting,” said Chris Nind, director of the Salvation Army in East Naples.

Facing a 5 percent decline is the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle donations compared to last year, which brought in about $250,000, he said. The bell ringers started the kettle drive Nov. 19 and it wraps up Christmas Eve.

“We’re just hoping the last week it will improve,” he said. “But we are so extremely grateful to the community of Collier for all the help through food donations.”

When it came to toys, donations were on par to last year except bicycle donations were down.

“We did have one donor who purchased 20 bicycles,” he said.

St Vincent de Paul in East Naples could always use more food and toy donations but it was able to serve 300 children with toys and 10 families were anonymously adopted “in a major way” for Christmas, said Carolyn Henry, executive director. A sixth-grade class at St. Ann Catholic Church adopted one of the families.

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church had a “giving tree” initiative in which parish members gave toys and clothes that filled up three vans, she said. San Marco Catholic Church also had a similar event and the donations poured in. In addition, the charity gave out 450 bags of groceries.

“Demand is up but donations are probably even to last year,” she said. “If people still have gifts, we will still find families. People are being very generous, no doubt, but demand for food has gone up.”

Joe Johnston, coordinator for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in Collier, said 1,638 families received toys after the community stepped forward with an estimated 20,000 toys.

Joe Johnston, coordinator for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in Collier, said 1,638 families received toys after the community stepped forward with an estimated 20,000 toys.

“We did not have a shortage,” he said. “Collier County citizens are very generous. They gave us more even in these hard times. People came through. We gave out 430 bicycles.”

All told, 250 toy boxes were distributed in the community. The organization still is collecting toys for toy boxes, though it isn’t actively soliciting for them.

The Toys for Tots program had 150 volunteers and another two dozen had to be turned down because there were no leftover volunteer times, he said.

Johnston has been with the Collier program for five years and said this year stood out for community outpouring.

“I may have owned my own business for 26 years and I thought I worked hard,” Johnston said. “I worked a lot harder (for this) but I’ve never been so satisfied than working for this Toys for Tots campaign.”

__ Connect with reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman

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