Marco Islanders are again being called upon to assist the underprivileged by donating side dishes to the St. Matthew’s House Thanksgiving dinner. The Naples-based homeless shelter and food bank prepares Thanksgiving Day meals for hundreds of Collier County’s economically disadvantaged each year.
As always, the effort is led by Bill Filbin, who founded the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors’ annual donation of the side dishes 22 years ago.
The community is asked to donate disposable covered trays of pre-cooked and reheatable side dishes such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, baked yams, mashed and baked sweet potatoes, vegetables and other favorites, as well as boxed-up pies. Items that require refrigeration are discouraged.
A realtor for Remax Affinity Plus on Marco, Filbin transports the food to the nonprofit’s Airport-Pulling Road campus himself. Last year, he collected about 90 trays of food, along with donated pies. He hopes to meet or exceed that total this year.
The effort’s beginnings lie in a question that Filbin posed.
“Twenty-two years ago I asked the chef what I could do to help with their Thanksgiving Day dinner drive and he said the problem that they have is they didn’t have enough ovens to cook side dishes,” he said. “They cook mostly hams, turkeys and chickens and he said if I could help them with side dishes, it would free up the ovens for the main meal.”
Liz Morris, hospitality director at St. Matthew’s House, said she expects to serve upwards of 500 people at this year’s Thanksgiving meal. We always plan for more because you just never know,” she added.
The number of people served seems to rise each year and that type of people enjoying the holiday meal has also been changing.
“It seemed for a long time that the demographic was predominantly single males, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot more seniors, and we’ve seen a lot more women with children,” said Morris.
She described the annual side dish contributions as “an incredible blessing” that helps the kitchen staff accomplish its goals for the day.
“It takes a lot of work from our culinary team so that we can focus on serving our residents and serving the homeless here at the shelter, and also focus on making it all come together,” explained Morris. “Putting a vast amount of hours into preparing all of those side dishes would be almost an insurmountable task for my team. They could certainly do it, but not at the magnitude that Bill helps us to do.”
To donate to the St. Matthew’s House Thanksgiving Dinner:
- To pick up aluminum disposable trays with covers, stop by the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors at 140 Waterway Drive (239-394-5616) or call Bill Filbin, 239-370-8118, who will deliver them 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 – 10:30 AM, Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28), at the Association of Realtors office for delivery to St. Matthew’s House.