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Agencies need help providing Thanksgiving meals for those in need

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As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in Hernando County, more and more families are turning to area help agencies to ensure that they enjoy a full, nourishing and festive holiday meal. Now these agencies are turning to the community, to help feed Hernando families for the day of feasting.

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“We need food donations. We’re running very short this year,” said Cathy Southard, social service director and administrative director at The Salvation Army of Hernando County. “We are aiming to provide Thanksgiving dinners to more than 400 families that have applied.”

Many businesses and organizations that previously supported The Salvation Army’s food basket giveaways, according to Southard, are unable to do so this year, due to staffing and resource shortages. 

“Everybody is cutting back,” she said. 

The Salvation Army is in need of donations of everything from turkeys and hams to boxed fixings such as potatoes, stuffing, rice and cranberry sauce, plus cereal and other breakfast items for Thanksgiving morning. Grocery gift cards, pies, and pie ingredients also are welcome. Donations are accepted at the Hernando headquarters of The Salvation Army, 15464 Cortez Blvd. in Brooksville.  Call (352) 796-1186 for more information. 

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“We strive to provide big Thanksgiving meals for big families this year,” said Southard. “All donations will be received with grateful hearts.”

Day Star Life Center in Brooksville has given away 200 grocery gift cards this year to families in need, so that they can shop for their own Thanksgiving feasts. And while the center does not accept hams or turkeys, donations of nonperishable food items–including popular side dishes such as rice, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, butter, etc.–are welcome at the center, 7120 Hope Hill Rd, Brooksville. Call 352-799-5930 for more information.

The Dawn Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence in Hernando County is planning to serve a full Thanksgiving meal at its 40-bed shelter facility, and does not at this time have a community sponsor for the meal. Those who wish to donate canned foods for the meal can call the agency’s Donations and Volunteering line at 352-639-0892 or e-mail email: [email protected] 

Also, financial donation can be made through the Dawn Center website.

“Through our shelter services and events like the holiday dinners, we correct the lie that many of these families have been told by their abusers–that nobody else cares about them, ” said Shannon Sokolowski, executive director of Dawn Center. “We are here to help them succeed.”        

Beyond Thanksgiving dinners, help agencies of all varieties are striving to provide essential, day to day meals for many Hernando residents. People Helping People, a 501c3 Non-Profit Charitable Corporation based at 1396 Kass Cir, Spring Hill, seeks donations of staples such as peanut butter and jelly, hams and chickens, spaghetti, fruits, snacks, beverages, and much more.

“We are always in need of food for our pantry.  People Helping People supplies about 750 school children with meals and snacks weekly, 258 seniors supplemental groceries monthly, and about 100+ meals weekly to Hernando County residents who are homeless, near homeless and chronically financially impoverished,” said Evan Sommerfeld, executive director of People Helping People. ” Any help is welcome help.”

For a complete list of needed donations for People Helping People, visit https://www.phphernando.org/donate-goods-services. Or call +1 (352) 686-4466 for more information.

Tim Rumptz, Food Pantry Director at St. Vincent de Paul of Hernando County, says that the need for food services tends to increase during the holiday season.

“With children out of school, they’re not getting the food they usually get at school,” he said. “So there’s more need.”

St. Vincent de Paul is giving out pies with food bags as a special Thanksgiving treat this year. And aside from donations of meal staples like dairy and eggs, and any foods in original containers, the agency–based at 1291 Kass Circle in Spring Hill, (352) 688-3331–also welcomes the giving of those extras (anything from stuffing mixes, cranberries and sweet potatoes to cash and grocery card donations) that make family feasts all the more special.

“This is the time of year for those special holiday meals,” said Rumptz. “The time to be a family and enjoy all the good things.”

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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