Sheriff’s Office looks to fight holiday hunger
After a very successful inaugural event, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has raised the bar in the fight to make sure all needy North Fort Myers families will have food on the table this Christmas.
The LCSO and Balgas will host the second-annual Fighting Holiday Hunger event at the North Fort Myers Community Park Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The event will feature a LCSO helicopter and SWAT team, food, free carnival games and bounce houses, live music, a car show and more.
The Suncoast Community Center and Community Cooperative will be present. The money raised from last year’s event allowed them to run four mobile food banks at the community center, said Capt. Christopher Reeves.
Reeves, who heads the North Division, said the idea came about when the LCSO decided it could do more than help just a handful of families during the holidays.
As a member of the Next Level Church, Reeves saw how a food drive could impact a church community. So when searching for ideas, Reeves didn’t want to see families have to decide between food or presents for Christmas.
“We decided to do a canned food drive and they projected we helped about 2,500 families. We brought in more than 10,000 canned goods and more than 700 pounds of dry staples,” Reeves said. “We’ve taken the burden of making that choice and instead of impacting four families, we’re impacting thousands.”
Last year’s event drew more than 2,000 people, with the goal of bringing in 4,000 to 5,000 this year. Reeves said he would also like to collect 15,000 canned goods.
To help to that end, Reeves said the bounce houses and carnival games will be free this year, thanks to the generosity of sponsors.
Last year some people didn’t have the money to play them with their children.
“We’ve been able to secure all the bounce houses through Balgas and won’t have to charge anyone to have fun,” Reeves said. “The Kiwanis has also donated $1,000 to the event.”
Another partner had been B.J.’s, which has allowed the department to do a canned food drive, which actually started three weeks ago, on its property.
The deputies, on their time off, have stood by a container to talk with customers about donating. More than 5,000 cans have already been collected, Reeves said, which are at the Pondella Road substation, which was delivered to the Suncoast Community Center for its holiday pantry.
Music will be provided by Bite the Bullet, which plays all sorts of music, and an honor guard will be on hand in tribute to the World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor, since the anniversary will be Monday.
“The outpouring of support has been huge. Our Facebook page for the event has more than 4,000 views,” Reeves said. “When you commit crimes, you go to jail. When you’re in need, we help.”
The admission charge is canned good items and/or a cash donation, and all donations go directly to the community for those in need.