Monday, March 8, 2021

‘Feel good for Thanksgiving’ Volunteers pack quarter of a million meals for the hungry

Volunteer Joyce Imbrogno perhaps best summed up the delight in packing more than a quarter million meals for Collier County’s hungry.

“It’s like a feelgood for Thanksgiving,” said Imbrogno, who makes a point of volunteering at the packing session each year.

A joint effort between the Sunrise Rotary club, the Noontime Rotary club and the Kiwanis club, it’s to benefit Meals of Hope, a non-profit organization that packages and distributes fortified (dried) meals to those in need.

Inside the Marco Island Charter Middle School gym, whoops and cheers punctuated the happy crowd buzz as each station completed another box of packaged meals.

Everybody had a function on what was essentially a production line of goodwill, and when the two hours of activity was up, co-chair Erik Condee took to social media.

“Official count this morning (was) 262,254 meals packed,” he posted. “Marco Island thanks all of the 600 volunteers … as well as the sponsors.

Around the 8:30 kick-off, organizers realized they had more volunteers than they needed, so reluctantly began to turn some away.

But that wasn’t before they created an “overflow” packing table in the gym lobby, where Tiffany Homuth and a team packed away with gusto.

Giovanni Avila, 6, does his share of packing for the Meals of Hope session.

“It’s great knowing you’re helping people,” she said, “and in addition there’s so much camaraderie here.”

Homuth said she’d seen some of the needy communities who benefit from drives like this, and that it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the plights in which they find themselves.

Meals are either a fortified beans and rice casserole (in dry form) with added soy protein, vegetables and 21 different vitamins and minerals, or a fortified mac ‘n cheese meal.

The organizers note in their promotional literature that there are thousands of needy children in the County.

“(It) has the largest concentration of migrant workers in the eastern United States. It is a more rural area that is unique because it lacks the manufacturing resources of larger cities. This means that local food banks cannot receive any excess from food manufacturers to distribute.

“While there are generous farms and supermarkets, this lack of manufactured product is unique. Meals of Hope gives the meals away free of charge.”

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