Saturday, April 17, 2021

Meals of Hope Packaging Day is Almost Here

Volunteers at last year’s Meals of Hope Packing Event. Photo by Jessica Hernstadt

Volunteers at last year’s Meals of Hope Packing Event. Photo by Jessica Hernstadt

An investment of two hours’ time on a Saturday morning for the annual Meals of Hope Packaging Event has a huge payoff for volunteers: aiding the fight against hunger.

Set for 8:30 to 10:30 AM, November 4 at the Marco Island Charter Middle School gym, at least 500 volunteers are expected to turn out to assemble 250,000 meals to be dispensed to needy Collier County families for the Christmas holiday season and beyond.

Spots still remain on the volunteer roster, but Bill Morris, this year’s Meals of Hope chairman on Marco, is confident they will be filled by “packaging day.”

“We’re coming along,” he said. “Everything I’ve done as a volunteer; ticket sales, road races, whatever it is, everybody seems to come along at the last minute.”

Volunteers will be assembling packages of macaroni and cheese dinners, fortified with soy protein and 21 vitamins and minerals. Each package will contain enough of the staple for six meals. The packages are distributed, primarily, by the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida to schools and other service organizations in Collier County to be provided to disadvantaged youths and their families. Some packages are also provided to the students when the school year ends to provide sustenance over summer vacation.

“The packaging event is a lot of fun,” said Morris, who is in his second year as chairman. “Everybody has a smile on their face. It’s wonderful. Once you go, you’re hooked and you want to bring your friends and your family.”

Meals of Hope is a Naples-based nonprofit dedicated to providing fortified meals to the low-income in a county which has the highest concentration of migrant workers in the eastern U.S. The first packaging event was in August of 2007 and more than 36 million meals have been packed and distributed since then.

Marco Island’s Sunrise and Noontime Rotary clubs and the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island are the organizers of the community’s Meals of Hope effort, which includes the goal of raising $50,000 to fund the packaged meals. The three clubs each donate $4,000 toward the cause and they also hold monthly “After Five” gatherings throughout the year to generate funds, along with accepting donations from the community.

“I think we’re real close,” Morris said recently regarding the fundraising goal. “We’re probably $3,000 to $5,000 short, but if we get more than $50,000, we’re sure to use it next year.”

The service organizations also collects corks from wine and other bottles that are sold on eBay, usually to artists and other artisans, with the proceeds benefitting Marco’s Meals of Hope effort. Susan Ackerson spearheads the cork collecting and shipping from the business she co-owns with her husband Tom, the Old Marco Pub & Restaurant.

Morris said organizations and people of all ages are encouraged to come and help reach the packaging goal. A contribution of $25 is suggested for all adult volunteers and volunteers are asked to be present by the 8:30 AM start time.

To sign up in advance or for more information, visit

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