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Agencies offer assistance for those in need

By Staff | Dec 22, 2010

Lee County non-profit agencies and churches have worked overtime to provide relief to those in need this holiday season, and the next couple days leading up to Christmas are going to be no different.
Here in Cape Coral, Vineyard Community Church will be offering lunch on Christmas Eve. Those people who take advantage of the lunch service will also receive a boxed dinner for Christmas.
Vineyard’s Sarah Lau said they provide the same lunch service every Thursday, and they usually serve 200 – 300 people. She expects the same on Christmas Eve.
She said the church’s efforts to provide help to the less fortunate are made possible by several sources throughout the community.
“We get a lot of our stuff donated from the community,” Lau said. “Sweetbay Supermar-ket, Publix and Harry Chapin Food Bank all donate items.”
Harry Chapin is having a record year for food donations.
In 2009, the center collected and distributed 9.5 million pounds of food. Spokeswoman Joyce Jacobs expects 2010 to finish with close to 11 million pounds of food distributed throughout the community.
“The need is so incredible,” Jacobs said. “Middle income families have never been in situations like this before.”
Harry Chapin serves most of the area’s non-profit food banks, working in conjunction with 170 different agencies over the five-county region.
Jacobs said they’ve tried using a mobile food pantry this year as an added way to help feed the public, especially when it comes to distributing fresh produce. But regardless of the method in which they get food to the people, Jacobs said she’s never come across anything like the current need during her time with the food bank.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.
The Cape Caring Center is one of the local food banks whose shelves are helped through Harry Chapin.
Director Fred Cull said Harry Chapin provides a very reasonable purchase price for the food, helping them stretch their dollars as far as they can.
Like Harry Chapin, the Cape Caring Center has seen “record” numbers of food donated and distributed this year, according to Cull.
Not counting December, the Cape Caring Center has helped 14,000 individuals, and 4,000 families.
“We inherited a lot of young families from the construction industry,” Cull said. “Through the generosity of the community, we’ve been able to help everyone this year.”
Though not open on Christmas, the Cape Caring Center has already collected and distributed toys to 250 children, as well as handed tons of food to people in need.
“It’s been a very gratifying year. Very busy,” Cull added.
The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Lodge at 2400 Edison Ave. will be serving food on Christmas Day from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Spokeswoman Merrilu Bennett said she expects to see around 400 families take advantage of the free Christmas dinner — numbers she said were similar to those who took advantage of the Thanksgiving dinners.
Bennett also said the Salvation Army is still in need of food in order to make sure everyone is fed on Christmas Day.
“We need hams, cranberries, dry mash potatoes and dry stuffing,” Bennett said.