Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fighting Against Hunger


Photo by Don Manley | Mary Bartos, front left, and Cheryl Stokes, front right, are joined by members of the Bartos Group team and some of the food awaiting pick-up by St. Matthew’s House.

The Bartos Group’s annual community food drive will again help to combat hunger in Collier County.

More than 3,000 paper grocery bags of nonperishable food were recently picked up by the recipient, the Naples-based nonprofit St. Matthew’s House. St. Matthew’s House provides housing for the homeless, substance abuse recovery programs, a food pantry for families in need and more.

Bags were sent to Marco residents during March by the Bartos Group – Premiere Plus Realty, Price Moving and New American Funding. The grocery bags were donated by Publix, Lucky’s Market and Winn Dixie.

The Bartos Group began the food drive four years ago.

“It began because we knew there was a need and we decided we were going to do something about it and it’s grown from there,” said Bartos Group owner Mary Bartos. “Cheryl started participating three years ago and we’ve gotten additional people who’ve participated. It’s awesome just to get the word out there because you wouldn’t know with the multi-million homes that we sell that there’s a need here.”

The “Cheryl” Bartos referred to is Cheryl Stokes of New American Funding’s Marco Island office.

“I think the main thing is she identified a need and we both wanted to help,” said Stokes about the effort’s beginnings. “What we both feel is, we’re both actively working in a community that that has a lot of affluence. But there is a need there and as active participants, we should also be active community members and help them. We need them just as much as they need us and we should be helping them as well.”

Hunger is no stranger to Collier County where roughly half of public school students are eligible for free-or-reduced lunch, which may be the only meal they receive that day.

People dropped off their food-laden shopping bags at the Bartos office, which served as the collection point. The drive lasted for the entire month of March.

The drive’s timing serves an important purpose.

“Spring seems to be the best time because kids don’t have enough to eat here in the summer, believe it or not, which is crazy,” explained Bartos. “With the affluence we have here, no-one would see it.”

Both she and Stokes noted that the post-tourist season, summer months can be a lean time with reduced works hours for employees of restaurants and other tourism-dependent businesses.

“They just don’t have the resources during the summer, so this is a way to help them supplement their resources,” added Stokes.

Bartos said this was Price Moving’s first year in the effort and the company’s presence helps the drive reach even more people. More participants are always welcome.

“Any other businesses that would like to participate; we’d love to have them walk alongside us,” she added.

St. Matthew’s House will also pick up donations of nonperishable food at Bartos’ and Stokes’ offices during the remainder of the year. The Bartos Group is located at 950 N. Collier Boulevard, Suite 201. New American Funding is located at 606 Bald Eagle Drive, Suite 401B.

St. Matthew’s House receives no government funding, instead relying totally on donations and its social enterprises.

For more information about St. Matthew’s House, visit stmatthewshouse.org.

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