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Islander quietly helps the homeless

By Staff | May 27, 2015

Mitch Schwenke delivering goods to the Salvation Army campus in Fort Myers. PHOTO PROVIDED

Mitch Schwenke is quietly working behind the scenes in helping the most needy in southwest Florida. The owner of two Blue Coyote Supper/Social Club stores, one in Sanibel, donates cash, food and time to benefit the Salvation Army in Fort Myers. At Christmastime, for instance, he’ll haul hundreds of pounds of choice meats, veggies and a tasty dessert to the Salvation Army campus to feed homeless people and families. The cost comes from his pocket. His staff volunteers time to help their boss in his passion to help the often helpless.

An April 25 benefit at his Blue Coyote in Sanibel was a canned food drive and donation event, with proceeds helping in Fort Myers. Participants donated at least 10 cans of nonperishable food or paid $10 to gain entry. The event brought hundreds of pounds of food, all sent to a Salvation Army food pantry.

Donors at the event also get a bowl of the Schwenke’s signature black bean and sausage stew. At least once a month he sends two dozen quarts of the stew and lasagna to help feed the men and women at Sally’s Cafe at the Salvation Army campus in downtown Fort Myers. His sausage and bean concoction in Fort Myers has been dubbed Sally’s Coyote Stew. The shelter feeds up to 150 homeless each night, Schwenke said.

“It’s a fun little event for a great cause,” Schwenke said of the April canned food drive.

The Islander asked Mitch Schwenke about his passion for outreaching to southwest Florida’s most needy.

Islander: Why is it so important to support the Salvation Army?

Schwenke: If you’ve ever volunteered in feeding the homeless and particularly the children, you’d understand. As there are many great charitable organizations, I feel the Salvation Army is at the top from a business standpoint. They are a well run organization with low administration and payroll expenses. Literally 93 cents out of every donated dollar goes directly to work on their causes. No overpaid CEO here. I would also highly recommend a tour of the facility on Edison Avenue.

Islander: You must see the world differently after working with the Salvation Army. What is most misunderstood about homelessness, poverty in general?

Schwenke: EVERYBODY, no exceptions, within a few degrees of separation, knows or knows of someone homeless or in poverty. It transcends all races and ages. It does not discriminate. Don’t be surprised because it could happen to anybody. It has and will continue to be an issue in our society.

Islander: How can people get engaged in helping others?

Schwenke: Volunteering their time and, of course, monetary donations are the two main ways people can help. It truly is a sad state of affairs for our society and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Islander: Are you on the lookout for volunteers?

Schwenke: I can’t speak for the Salvation Army but I can point you in the right direction. Like any businessthere’s always room for good help.