Back in 2007, when Naples resident Stephen Popper was asked to help ship food to a poor school in Haiti, he willingly and enthusiastically accepted the endeavor. But Popper felt a strong urge to help those in his own backyard. In August 2007, a food packing event was held where Popper and a team of volunteers packed 135,000 meals for Southwest Florida families in need. Popper, now the executive director of Meals of Hope, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has taken the mission further. The organization has helped to feed millions of hungry people from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina to Ohio, Illinois
On Marco Island, Meals of Hope has become a foundation of charity and volunteerism while engaging the community spirit of fellowship and fun at the same time. The Marco Island Sunrise Rotary Club, the Noontime Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club have joined forces to help feed hungry and needy children and their families in Collier County. The three clubs have set a goal to raise $50,000 in order to package 250,000 fortified meals on November 11, 2017. Throughout the year, the clubs will be diligently working to raise these funds.
Each month, local restaurants will take turns hosting a Happy Hour for Hope. The events are open to the public and offer great food, happy hour drink prices and entertainment, all for your $10 donation.
The first Happy Hour for Hope of the 2017 season was recently held at CJ’s On the Bay. Over 100 people rocked to the sounds of Marco Island’s Rosetta Stone while enjoying delicious food from CJ’s set amidst the breathtaking view of Smokehouse Bay from the Esplanade.
A 50-50 drawing is always the highlight of each Happy Hour for Hope. At CJ’s On the Bay, the lucky winners of the draw were Roger and Jessica Hernstadtwho readily and generously donated their winnings back to Meals of Hope.
Marco Island attorney Bill Morris, aka Captain Happy Hope, is serving as the chair of Marco Island Meals of Hope for the second consecutive year. Morris, extremely grateful for the community’s dedication and commitment in 2016, once again asks Marco Islanders for their help. “We are always accepting donations. It will cost about $50,000 to buy the food products for our packaging event. Our Happy Hours only pay a part.”
Those raw food products will be packaged to create a beans and rice casserole and macaroni and cheese. The meals are nutritiously balanced and fortified with soy protein, vegetables, and 21 vitamins and minerals. The Harry Chapin Food Bank and Collier Harvest are part of the distribution network that assures the delivery of the meals to those in need.
Morris urges participation in another Meals of Hope fundraiser, Korks for Kids, a project of Marco Island’s Susan Ackerson. Participants are asked to save corks from wine bottles. Ackerson then sells the corks on eBay with all proceeds donated to Meals of Hope. Morris thanks Ackerson and all who helped last year, saying, “You brought me thousands of corks! But we always need more! Please save your corks and bring them to any Meals of Hope event, to me at anytime or to Susan Ackerson at Anchor Realty.”
Becoming a member of Friends of Hope is another way to aid in this mission to feed the hungry. Membership in Friends of Hope is $500 ($650 for businesses) and will purchase 2,500 meals. Friends of Hope members are honored at every Meals of Hope function, receive free admission and even receive an honorable name badge.
For more information about Meals of Hope, including a schedule of upcoming Happy Hours for Hope and other opportunities to volunteer and donate, please visit www.mohmi.org.