Community comes together to package food
JOE HENDRICKS | SUBMITTED
Volunteers from Sotheby’s package bags with a lentil casserole Saturday.
HOLMES BEACH –An estimated 800 community volunteers gathered at City Field in Holmes Beach Saturday, forming human production lines that produced 104,544 packaged lentil casseroles to be distributed by the Food Bank of Manatee County to needy families.
Gathered in rows under the shade of a large white tent next to city hall, teams of 12 to 15 volunteers worked 90-minute shifts scooping, filling, weighing, sealing, boxing and packing the brown lentils, white long grain rice, dehydrated vegetables and Himalayan salts that produce a packaged meal designed to feed a family of six.
Believed to be the first of its kind to take place on Anna Maria Island, Saturday’s event was the result of Holmes Beach resident Kim Darnell seeing a television commercial for a recent Feeding Children Everywhere food-packing event that took place in the Tampa area.
Darnell decided to organize a similar event on the Island and contacted Feeding Children Everywhere to get the wheels rolling.
Feeding Children Everywhere is an Orlando-based non-profit organization founded by Don Campell in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The international organization has provided more than 5 million meals worldwide. In 2012, the Love Local subsidiary organization was created to address hunger here in America.
“I had a vision of an event that would bring people on the Island together to do something really good for our community,” Darnell said as she watched the proceedings unfold Saturday morning.
“I became aware that 25 percent of families in Manatee County are struggling to put enough food on the table. Having a quarter of the people in our county needing food is not acceptable. I felt there was something we could do, and there are a lot of people on this island with huge hearts who agree with our vision that no child should go to bed hungry.”
Darnell said she was “blown away” by the support from the community and she credits Anna Maria residents Mary and Mike Selby for helping her raise $30,000 to fund the effort.
Hendrick Honda in Bradenton donated $12,500. The money raised in advance was used to purchase food ingredients and packaging supplies. Additional financial and food donations were collected at Saturday’s event.
Darnell said she hopes to make this an annual event. When asked how it felt on a personal level to see so many people gathered for an event she helped create, she said, “It’s very emotional. We’ve been working so hard for the last month. To stand here and look out at all of these people is very overwhelming.”
The first of four volunteer shifts scheduled for Saturday included students from Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton, an adult Sunday school class from Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria, representatives of Sotheby’s Realty and employees from Bank of America locations in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Cindy Migone from Sotheby’s said, “All this food today is going to be staying in our local community and we want to help bring awareness to the hungry people in our community.”
Bank of America’s Angela Clark said, “We are always invested in our community, and this is one more way that we can help.”
Standing next to Clark, Ariel Wilson said, “We’re involved with our community and we care.”
Kandi Kerekes, owner of Three Island Monkeys gift shop in Anna Maria, said half of her staff participated in the effort.
“There’s a lot of love out here,” she said.
After his volunteer shift ended, Roser Church member Jim Lathrope said, “We all willingly, gladly, happily participated, and the event was more fun than we could have imagined. It was great.”
His sister, Anne Lathrope, said, “We’ll be there next year and we’ll bring all of our friends. “
Church member Suzanne Pescitelli said, “This was a great way to help the community, and we had a great time. Our mission is to impact our community not only with regular food, but with spiritual food as well.”
At the end of the day, Darnell exclaimed, “It was the most positive, uplifting day!”
“You could feel the love,” Mary Selby added.