In early June, thousands of Marco Island residents received a brown paper grocery bag in the mail. The bags were sent on behalf of real estate team the Bartos Group of Premiere Plus Realty as part of their annual food drive.
For the past three years the Bartos Group has taken a stand against hunger in Collier County. Each year they organize a food drive benefitting St. Matthew’s House, a nonprofit charity organization that runs out of Naples, Florida. St. Matthew’s House provides housing for the homeless, recovery programs for individuals dealing with substance abuse, and a food pantry for families in need. Just last year the organization served over 513,249 meals and delivered nearly 7,000 bags of groceries.
For many families in Collier County— especially families with young children— summer can be a difficult time. About half of Collier County public school students, grades K-12, are eligible for free or reduced lunch. For some students, school lunch is the only meal they get in a day.
Food in the summertime is critical for these families. According to Mary Bartos, chief executive officer to the Bartos Group, it’s one of the reasons the real estate group started their paper bag program.
“These kids don’t have food,” Mary Bartos explained. “They don’t get breakfast, they don’t get lunch, they don’t get any of that in the summer.”
The Bartos Group, with help from the Marco Island Post Office and donations from Publix and Winn Dixie, mailed out over 3,800 grocery bags to homes on Marco Island. The paper bags came with a large purple sticker with instructions to fill them up with food and return them tothe Bartos office.
“People leave, they go up north and they have all these dry goods. Why not take it to the pantry?” Mary Bartos said.
This year the group received 60 bags, which they recently delivered to St. Matthew’s House. Each bag was filled to the brim with necessary food items.
In a statement made to their official Facebook page, St. Matthew’s House said, “Thank you so much to the Bartos Group Southwest Florida Real Estate for collecting this incredible amount of food to help support St. Matthew’s House when we need it most! Summer time is when our food pantry is very low on inventory.”
A point Mary Bartos wanted to impress upon Marco Island residents is that though you may not see it, poverty exits here. Children go hungry everyday, which is why organizations like St. Matthew’s House are vital.
“Nobody’s putting it out there that this is something that’s a huge need,” Mary Bartos said.
Though all their bags have been mailed out, you can still drop off supplies at the real estate team’s office on Marco Island. They accept donations year round and make regular trips up to St. Matthew’s House.
“All year long they can actually drop off here because we go in and out of Naples. If they don’t want to run up there we’ll get it up there for them,” Mary Bartos said.
The Bartos Group makes weekly trips to St. Matthew’s House. If you would like to make a donation stop by their office at 950 N Collier Blvd #201, Marco Island. For more information, call 239-394-3040 or visit www.bartosgroup.com.
For more information on St. Matthew’s House visit stmatthewshouse.org.