Area food banks, churches and shelters collect donations for Thanksgiving, Christmas

Area food banks, churches and shelters collect donations for Thanksgiving, Christmas

Jean Amodea/Eagle Correspondent 
 Allegra Balliard, program director for the Direct Assistance Programs at the Family Resource Center for Catholic Charities, organizes cans of spaghetti sauce at the resource center in East Naples.

Jean Amodea/Eagle Correspondent Allegra Balliard, program director for the Direct Assistance Programs at the Family Resource Center for Catholic Charities, organizes cans of spaghetti sauce at the resource center in East Naples.

Southwest Floridians, churches, organizations and even students are preparing to stretch out their hands in compassion and love during the upcoming holidays – and they need your help.

Cash-strapped folks need assistance to feed themselves or their families and your donations can make a difference, one can at a time. New to our area, in late September, the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida (HCFB) opened a second location, a warehouse in Collier County in a joint effort with Meals of Hope.

Katie Schweikhardt, HCFB Collier County food coordinator, said that for every $1 donated, HCFB can provide $6 in food value for their neighbors in need to more than 150 member agencies in the five counties of Southwest Florida.

Local agencies like St. Matthew's House and St. Vincent DePaul will benefit from its coffers and feed many.

In south Lee County, two of the area's many churches are following the scriptural mandate to feed the hungry by holding food drives.

Lamb of God Church, in Estero is hosting its 10th annual "Feeding the 5000," that will supply a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings to the needy in Lee, Collier, Hendry and Charlotte counties.

Cheryl Frogge of the church's steering committee said the drive is a grass-roots effort of neighbors helping neighbors where every penny raised goes directly to the provision of meals.

Last year, some 400 church and community volunteers spent thousands of hours identifying families in need, establishing food and financial support, preparing and cooking and packaging the meals, figuring delivery routes and delivering the meals.

The program has grown from feeding 150 to providing 9,600 meals in 2011 when 563 turkeys and more than 12,000 pounds of side dishes were prepared and distributed.

Visit Hope Lutheran Church, in Bonita Springs and be greeted at the entrance by a shopping cart supplied by a partner grocery store to signify that activities are well under way to collect canned goods, rice and beans now through Christmas. The food drive coincided with the church's 15th annual Harvest Fest held Oct. 26.

"The best thing folks can do is to donate canned food items, whether through us or to another community agency. There are many people who need our help," said Pastor Richard Browning.

The food will be redistributed to Amigos en Cristo, which has a food distribution facility in Immokalee, St. Matthews House and Bonita Springs Assistance Office (BSAO).

The BSAO, founded by Father John Foley, offers help to those struggling to find housing, pay for food, utilities or medical expenses, in the Bonita Springs area.

Executive Director Maribel Slabaugh said that the Stocking Fund has been their signature fundraising campaign for more than 33 years.

Beginning Thanksgiving week through New Year's Day, their traditional Christmas letter is sent to supporters describing the life changing work done for families through their contributions.

Support for BSAO is also provided by area churches, schools, the business community and the Chamber of Commerce, which hosts a toy drive during its holiday party that provides Christmas gifts for 100 children.

Slabaugh said that 1020, the number of families served in 2009, jumped to 3,046 in 2011. This year to date, BSAO has already served 4,129 families.

Twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, folks can visit the food pantry that includes meat, produce, dairy, deli, toiletries and diapers and select items based on the their individual eating habits, diet, culture and health concerns, unique to each family's ages, size and composition.

Eligibility requirements are a photo identification and proof of residency in the Bonita Springs area.

Through the BSAO, Lee County residents are also served by St. Matthew's House (SMH) of Naples. About 1,500 individuals are served monthly with the number increasing during the holidays by about 30 to 35 percent.

Donna Martin, SMH volunteer coordinator, said that last year, 3,000 families received holiday meals and 1,200 were provided a cooked meal over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Sign ups for turkey and groceries for Thanksgiving are 1-3 p.m. Nov. 14 and 16 and from 3-5 p.m. Nov. 15.

Those who are Collier County residents born on or before Nov. 14, 1950 (bring Florida driver's license or state identification with Collier County residency) or who have dependent children born on or after Nov. 14, 1995 (bring birth certificates and original Social Security card for yourself and for your children) or those with proof of disability are eligible to sign up.

Allegra Belliard, program director for the Direct Assistance Programs at the Family Resource Center for Catholic Charities, in Naples said food and gifts are collected for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Notices in Catholic parish bulletins and the Catholic Charities newsletter are placed for donations of turkeys, hams, stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, canned veggies and fruit to help 200 families.

Each year 600 children are given gift bags of toys, clothing or shoes from donations of new, unwrapped gifts for children age 1 to 12.

The charity uses federal poverty guidelines to determine eligibility for people regardless of race, creed, color or religious affiliation. Volunteer help is needed in the pantry to stock, sort and pack bags of food.

Christopher Nind, director of development and community relations for the Salvation Army, reports that during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the organization serves 2,000 families and more than 10,000 children.

He cited current needs of financial donations and about 30,000 pounds of food and toys for children.

Most of their support, he said comes from mail appeals and special events like Collier schools' food drives, fundraising, the Christmas Red Kettle Campaign, the Red Kettle Gala and the Angel Program.

Every month, 2,000 people including seniors and children are given assistance with social services with food distributions every other month to individuals, depending on demand.Volunteers are needed for Christmas toy and food distribution as well as Bell Ringers for Red Kettles and volunteers through the year to assist with the SMH thrift store and child care.

Eligibility includes proof of Collier County residency and legal status.

On Marco Island, the Salvation Army food drive will also pick up food items collected by students at Tommy Barfield Elementary School (TBE) who are learning about civic duty and charitable giving while exemplifying the school's three R's — respect, responsibility and positive role models.

Principal Jory Westberry said that TBE holds the distinction of being No. 1 in Collier County for food collections for the past five years.

Spearheaded by the student council their duties include flier and poster distribution to classes, broadcasting spots on the school's morning news and assembling boxes. Weekly tallies are reported to project coordinator and teacher, Kathy O'Brian.

Incentives are motivating students to reach or surpass last year's collections of 6,100 items by Nov. 15.How to donate

Who: Lamb of God Church, 19671 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers

What: Breads (rolls, buns, biscuits, tortillas), pies (preferably pumpkin or pecan), muffins, cookies, cakes (no icing) and financial donations

When: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday

Contact: (239) 872-3700; frogge1@aol.com or feedingthe5000.net

Who: Hope Lutheran Church, 25999 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs

What: Canned goods, rice, beans

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-noon Sundays; 4:30-7 p.m. October 26

Contact: (239) 992-6952 or hopebonita.org

Who: The Bonita Springs Assistance Office, 25300 Bernwood Dr., Unit 6, Bonita Springs

What: Low sodium low fat, no sugar food items (call or email to ask about particular needs)

When: 9 a.m.-noon and 1- 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Contact: (239) 992-3034 or info@bonitaassistance.org

Who: St. Matthew's House, 2001 Airport Road South, Naples

What: Monetary and food donations of turkeys, boxed stuffing and potatoes, canned yams, corn, green beans, rice, cranberries and marshmallows.

When: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. every day

Contact: (239) 298-5033; donna@stmatthewshouse.org or stmatthewshouse.org.

Who: Catholic Charities of Collier, 4209 Tamiami Trail East, Naples

What: Turkeys, hams, stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, canned goods (pumpkin, cranberry sauce, veggies, fruit), new, unwrapped toys for ages 1-12

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday

Contact: (239) 793-0059, ext. 112; allegra@catholiccharitiescc.org or catholiccharitiescc.org

Who: Harry Chapin Food Bank and Meals of Hope, 2221 Corporation Blvd., Naples (behind Costco)What: Dry goods, peanut butter, rice, Maseca tortilla corn flour masa mix

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday

Contact: (239) 334-7007 ext. 200

Who: The Salvation Army, 3180 Estey Ave, Naples

What: Financial donations, canned food, unwrapped, new toys

When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday at The Family Store, 2255 Davis Blvd., Naples

Contact: (239) 775-9447 ext. 112; chris_nind@uss.salvationarmy.org or salvationarmynaples.org

Who: Tommy Barfield Elementary School, 101 Kirkwood Street, Marco Island

What: Canned goods

When: 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. until Nov. 15.

Contact: (239) 377-8500

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features