Members of the Englewood Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club (Florida, US — D 6960) exceeded their goal Saturday to pack more than 100,000 meals for distribution through five area food banks, and did it in under two hours.
Over 350 club members and volunteers, most wearing bright red Santa hats, weighed, packaged and moved 144,000 meals for the Englewood community at the Englewood campus of Sky Academy on 881 S River Road.
The event, Holidays Without Hunger, was sponsored by the Naples-based nonprofit Meals of Hope.
The event was a hands-on approach to combating hunger in Englewood.
The organisation sets up production lines across the state, where volunteers come together to package meals and only ask participants to make donations to cover the cost of what volunteers pack.
The Rotary Club raised $31,000 in donations from local businesses, organisations and individuals.
“The important thing is that all the food is staying right here in Englewood to all the people who are hungry throughout the holidays,” said Stephen Popper, 55, CEO of Meals of Hope.
Jim Hint, president of the Englewood Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club, said that since Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, many food bank shelves had been left bare.
“Our goal was to fill those shelves. So that’s what we’re doing this week. We are going to fill the shelves, and when they need more, we are going to do another event,” Hint said.
Almost 80 per cent of students enrolled in Englewood schools rely on school-provided lunches, Hint said.
“We may not go to bed at night hungry, but there are people in our community that are going to bed without food in their stomachs. So we are going to solve that temporarily by doing this meal packing event,” Hint said.
Volunteers packed two different meals, all of which were fortified with protein and 21 different vitamins and minerals.
“For the first time ever doing this event, I am just overjoyed at the community coming together,” Hint said.
Brian Phillips, 42, helped set up the event for the Rotary Club.
When he announced the event on a local radio station, the response was “astonishing and infectious.”
“Immediately there were 60 people on the phone wanting to know how they could help,” Phillips said.
Hint said everyone wanted to help. There were retirees, Boy Scouts and students from the local elementary and high schools. Even the baseball and football players wanted to help.
“There are some children in there that are 5, 6, 7 years old and there are people that wanted to be here so bad but couldn’t stand for two hours. Well, we got them some chairs and they are still helping out,” he said.
“All together we are going to have 11 wooden pallets by the end of the day. As you can see, I’m 6′ 3′′ and you can see it’s a good sized pallet,” Hint said.