The Snook Inn was the place to be for happy hour on June 13 as 91 people enjoyed great food, fellowship with friends and the musical sounds of Rosetta Stone. But this was not just any happy hour. This was a Happy Hour for Hope supporting Meals of Hope (MOH), a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity supporting the needy families of Collier County.
Did you know that Collier County has the largest concentration of migrant workers in the eastern United States? The county is also unique in that it lacks the manufacturing resources of other larger cities. Thus, local food banks do not receive any excess from food manufacturers to distribute to the needy. There are generous farms and supermarkets, but there is a lack of manufactured product. That’s where Meals of Hope comes to the rescue. Since 2007, over 17,000,000 fortified meals have been packed by Meals of Hope and distributed to needy children through the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Collier Harvest.
The Sunrise Rotary Club, the Noontime Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island have joined forces in this fight against hunger. This year local attorney William G. Morris, also known as “Captain Happy Hope” has assumed the lead position of the organization. Morris first became involved at the MOH packaging event years ago as a way of helping the organization and encouraging his children to be involved in community service. He said “I got into active leadership about a year and a half ago as part of Sunrise Rotary. Neil Snyder was Captain Hope at the time, but was to be president-elect of Sunrise Rotary. I told Neil that when he was ready to retire, I would be happy to take the helm. Voila! Here I am as Captain Happy Hope!”
Morris went on to say that things are going well sofar, but MOH can always use more support and donations. “We raised our goal to packaging 250,000 meals this year. That means we must raise $50,000. That higher figure is a stretch. I am hoping we will get some big donations soon. We have raised about $12,000 so far, but we have donations in the pipeline from both Rotary Clubs, totaling $8,000. We have also received strong support from the Woman’s Club and the Knights of Columbus, so we are optimistic.”
Korks for Kids is another movement that benefits the Meals of Hope. All types of wine corks are collected – cork, plastic and champagne. Susan Ackerson of the Old Marco Pub then sells them on eBay. The proceeds buy raw materials for the packaging of meals in November. Morris said “Most of those meals feed children. Hence, the catchy name Korks for Kids.”
The Happy Hours for Hope are a fun way to aid the cause. Local restaurants generously donate food and offer happy hour priced drinks. Those who attend pay $10 for the food and festivities. There is also a 50-50 raffle. For the past three years, the entertainment duo of Rosetta Stone, namely Marco Island residents Rose Kraemer and her husband, Tom “The Chief” Kraemer, have been generously donating their musical talent for the cause. “Meals of Hope means providing meals to those in need in my community the best way I know how – through my music.” Rose Kraemer went on to say that she is grateful for the opportunity of gathering friends together to make them familiar with this worthy charity and wonderful cause. Bill “Captain Happy Hope” Morris said that Rose Kraemer does even more than that. On June 13, Rose arrived at the Snook Inn before many of the volunteers were able to get there. Morris said, “Rose stepped rightin and started setting things up.”
So far in 2016, Happy Hours for Hope have been held at CJ’s on the Bay, Stonewalls, the Marco Island Brewery, the Marco Island Princess, and the Snook Inn. More happy hours are scheduled at Konrad’s Tropical Grille on June 27, Gino’s Trattoria on July 25, The Old Marco Pub and Restaurant on August 22, Mango’s Dockside Bistro on September 26 and The SpeakEasy on October 24.
Captain Happy Hope could have been called “Captain Happier Hope” at the Snook Inn on lucky June 13 as the Meals of Hope received a gift donation from Carolann Erb and Joanie Worsdal of the Key West Express in the form of a ticket on their adventurous cruise. The ticket will be auctioned at the Happy Hour for Hope at Konrad’s on June 27, so be sure to be there to purchase a chance for that exciting voyage!
These festivities all lead to the crucial event of packaging the food on November 12 from 8:30-10:30 AM at the Marco Island Charter Middle School. The Meals of Hope organization greatly appreciates the support from middle school Principal George Abounader and the board of directors. Two different meals are packed. First, there is a beans and rice casserole, fortified with soy protein, vegetables, and 21 vitamins and minerals. There is also a macaroni and cheese casserole, also fortified with soy protein and 21 vitamins and minerals. Meals of Hope in Naples has recently purchased a direct delivery truck to help with distribution throughout the county.
Volunteers are needed for the food packaging event. It makes for a great family event, as children are encouraged to participate. Adult volunteers are encouraged to make an optional $25 donation. To register as a volunteer, or to make a donation, please visit mohmi.org. As a community, Marco Island can nourish those in need with Meals of Hope.