For more than two decades, the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors has donated side dishes for the annual Thanksgiving dinner the St. Matthew’s House homeless shelter and food bank provides to the economically disadvantaged.
In 2020, the economic upheaval created by the Coronavirus Pandemic caused the level of need among Collier County residents to skyrocket, heightening the importance of the holiday meals, said realtor Bill Filbin, who founded the effort 23 years ago.
“The need is probably the highest it’s ever been since I’ve been doing this,” said the realtor for Remax Affinity Plus on Marco, who still spearheads the food drive. “Now the number of people who are in need has probably multiplied tenfold because so many people are out of work.”
As always, donations of such pre-cooked and reheatable side dishes as mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, baked yams, mashed and baked sweet potatoes, vegetables and other Thanksgiving favorites, as well as boxed-up pies are requested. Disposable covered trays for the food are available at the Association of Realtor’s office.
To donate to the St. Matthew’s House Thanksgiving Dinner
- To pick up aluminum disposable trays with covers, stop by the Association’s office, located, 140 Waterway Drive. The number there is 239-394-5616. You can also call or text Filbin at 239-370-8118 to have them delivered anywhere on Marco.
- The trays are stacked for travel, so no excess liquid please
- The pre-cooked side dishes and boxed-up pies can be dropped off, 8 AM to 10:30 AM, Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26), at the Association’s office for delivery to St. Matthew’s House.
Filbin transports the dishes himself to the Naples-based nonprofit’s Airport-Pulling Road campus before the meal is served. He delivered over 78 trays of food last year, a record total that he hopes to eclipse this year to help meet what is anticipated to be greater demand.
As a pandemic-related safety measure, rather than a communal sit-down meal at the St. Matthew’s House dining hall, served buffet-style by volunteers, this year’s Thanksgiving meal will instead consist of piping-hot food placed in to-go boxes for recipients to pick up.
Sean Dietzel, St. Matthew’s House’s Executive Chef, said he anticipates serving 300 to 500 meals that will be dispensed at the shelter and to the community this year. Efforts such as that of Filbin and the Realtors Association’s make a huge difference.
“That’s what helps us feed up to 500 people, with all the sides,” explained Dietzel. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Filbin is also seeking donations of canned goods and dry goods like rice, cereal, dry beans and pasta are also being sought for the first time. COVID-19 effect on the economy is the reason why. These items will go to the charity’s food.
“Because of the pandemic and what’s going on, St. Matthew’s House gives out food twice a week for all the people who are unable to work because their jobs are gone,” explained Filbin. “It’s been publicized on TV a lot, so I started thinking maybe people could also give us canned goods and dry goods.”
Peter Johnson, St. Matthew’s House’s Vice-President of Development, said demand at the food distributions has risen exponentially since May. Until then, the pantry had been serving 75 to 100 people at each distribution—or about 800 people monthly. Those numbers have now jumped to roughly 750 people a week—about 3,000 people a month.
“It all ramped up after people got laid off due to the closures that were caused by the pandemic,” he said.
A much higher than normal demand is also anticipated for the nonprofit’s annual Turkey Drop, which sees a frozen turkey and all the Thanksgiving dinner fixins’ dispensed to needy residents of Collier and Lee counties. About 2,500 meals were distributed in 2019, but Johnson said that number is expected to rise to at least 3,500 this year.
The program was started by Capital Wealth Advisors President and CEO Bill Benyon 16 years ago, and it’s sponsored by that firm, along with Egg-Land’s Best, Seed to Table, Wilson and Johnson, First Baptist Church of Naples, Publix, Calusa Bay Properties, Deangelis-Diamond and the Naples-based law firm of Woods, Weidenmiller, Michetti, Rudnick.
For more information about the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors’ Thanksgiving side dish food drive, call or text Bill Filbin at 239-370-8118. For information about the Turkey Drop and when and where the food will be distributed, check the St. Matthew’s House website or contact Johnson at 239-687-7629 or pjohnson@stMatthew’shouse.org. For more information about St. Matthew’s House, visit stMatthew’shouse.org.