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Wake Up America: Local 501c3 organization continues to collect food across the county for the disadvantaged

By Staff | Apr 1, 2020

Early Sunday morning, Kerry Roberts collects food donations from farms, grocery stores and other places to give it to those who need it the most.

This is something that has been done for about 30 years thanks to Wake Up America, an organization committed to feeding those who are disadvantaged or those who cannot afford food themselves.

Wake Up America is a non-profit 501c3 that has two trucks and trailers that go out every morning, including holidays, to pick up surplus food from countless places.

They pick up at five Publix stores (usually day-old products and overruns), a Pepperidge Farms store in Port Charlotte and others, which adds up to between 500 and 1,000 pounds per day, which gets distributed to churches and, especially, the Fort Myers Rescue Mission.

“They have a nice facility with about 85 men living there and are very particular abut them men in there. They have to have a job, can’t drink or smoke or say the Lord’s name in vain,” said president Lou Ackley. “We go there several days a week and their door is open for anyone who needs a meal.”

Every March, as the snowbirds are about to return home, Wake Up America conducts a food drive so snowbirds can clean out their refrigerators, which is what happened Saturday.

Roberts, vice president of Wake Up America, said Lake Fairways residents delivered more than 200 bags of food, half of which went to a church in Cape Coral, and the rest to the rescue mission.

There are others in North Fort Myers who benefit as well, where there are many people who lack food.

“The food goes to different places on different days. We give a lot of food to All-Souls because they serve lunches. We have another place where a community of veterans live and we give them food on Sunday when I drive,” said Roberts, who has been involved for 11 years. “It’s pretty cool what we do.”

Ackley said the group is comprised mainly of people from Pine Lakes and Lake Fairways with some other volunteers sprinkled in. But it’s the stores that make the difference.

“Pepperidge Farms is a wonderful product and they’re really picky about stuff getting out of date, and most of what we get isn’t out of date,” Ackley said. “Publix is the same way, especially with the veggies.”

Norm Piortrus founded the group in 1992 on a shoestring budget, which is how it has continued to run, thanks more than 30 of volunteers, said Roberts, who is a member of the group’s board of directors.

“It was something he felt he needed to do. He knew somebody at Publix because they’ve been involved for that long and we get a bulk of our products from there,” Roberts said.

Wake Up America earned 501c3 status in 2016. Ackley said he is always looking for either food or monetary donations.

For more information or to donate, call Ackley at 738-0191.