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United Way of Hernando County’s “Give Thanks, Give Food” Drive

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United Way of Hernando County encourages residents to “Give Thanks, Give Food” during the month of October; spreading rays of sunshine for people in need as a part of this 2nd Annual drive to benefit five local food pantries and shelters in Hernando County. 

The beneficiaries of this year’s “Give Thanks, Give Food” drive are: Dawn Center’s Domestic Violence Shelter, St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Pantry, People Helping People’s Weekend Blessings program, Youth & Family Alternatives New Beginning’s Youth Shelter, and Jericho Road Ministries’ Food Barn. All collected non-perishable food donations will be sorted, packed, and distributed to these agencies as part of United Way’s month-long “5 Days of Caring” in November. The distribution will take place the week before Thanksgiving, on November 15th at the People Helping People’s HELP Center on Kass Circle.

Last year’s “Give Thanks Give Food” drive distributed more than 10,762 lbs. of food to the five programs served, including 579 cans of soup, 973 boxes of pasta, and 4,150 lbs of rice. And Angie Bonfardino-Walasek, Executive Director/CEO of United Way Hernando County, says the need this year is greater than ever. 

“Our Partners in food distribution have noticed an increase in families needing food assistance due to the lingering impact COVID-19 has had in our community. We’re encouraging everyone to give what they can and help our local pantries and shelters fill their shelves ahead of the holiday season,” said Bonfardino-Walasek. “This will help alleviate the burden of food instability that so many families are struggling with right now. United Way collected over 10,762 pounds of food in 2020, and we’re aiming to surpass that goal this year!”

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Beneficiaries of this food drive are grateful for the aid provided through the “Give Thanks, Give Food” food drive. “It’s natural for all of us to find ways we think our neighbors might improve their own situations,” said Tim Rumptz, Food Pantry Supervisor of St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. “But over the years that I’ve spoken with so many local families in need, I can honestly say everyone is already carrying their own heavy load. In this year’s Food Drive partnership with the United Way and their Partner Agencies, I would ask that we be gentle with each other and give what we can to help. We are so grateful for the partnership in helping reach those in need in Hernando.”

Becky Burton, Executive Director of People Helping People in Hernando County, Inc., agrees. “People Helping People in Hernando County are very pleased and grateful to United Way for including us in their annual food drive,” she said. “The donations last year were used to help our Weekend Blessings program by supplementing the weekly bags that more than 600 children receive each Friday. These bags provide kid-friendly food that children can eat over the weekend when they aren’t getting food at school daily.  By the United Way helping us, we can help others!”

Shannon Sokolowski, Dawn Center executive director, says that United Way of Hernando County has become a verified member of the Dawn Center family. “Dawn Center is proud to be a United Way of Hernando County partner agency. United Way supports Dawn Center’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim services programs as well as our new Economic Justice Program through their Community Investment Grant. However, our local United Way strives to grow beyond partnership to become a United Way family,” she said. “As part of their family, they have been gracious enough to support local sheltering and feeding efforts this holiday season. We are so thankful to be included. In past years, we have seen many families come into our shelter program during the holiday season to escape violence in their homes. When we can show them that we can give them not just safety, but a new start for the new year it is better than any other holiday gift. A stocked pantry lets survivors know there is one less thing to worry about and that our community is truly here to support them in their journey.”

Amanda McCann, VP of Development & Recruitment, Jericho Road Ministries, Inc., also sees United Way as a vital community partner. “This holiday season the need for food will be great and we would not be able to meet that need without our community partners,” she said. “We are so grateful that United Way partners in helping Jericho Road’s vision of ending hunger in Hernando County!”

You too can join the giving family by donating to the United Way’s “Give Thanks, Give Food” food drive. The beneficiary agencies have provided the following list that identifies the most needed non-perishables, preferably some easy to open items such as pouched food and pop-top cans:

  • Applesauce
  • Boxed Potatoes      
  • Canned Fruit, Meat & Veggies
  • Canned Beans
  • Cereal
  • Dry Milk
  • Granola Bars
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Pasta Sauce    
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly 
  • Pork & Beans
  • Rice
  • Soup and Stews
  • Spaghetti
  • Stuffing
  • Tuna
  • Tomato Sauce

Unopened and unexpired food items can be dropped off to the United Way of Hernando County office (4028 Commercial Way) Monday-Friday between 9:30am- 4:30pm. A special thank you to local participating locations that hosted or will be hosting internal food drives throughout October:

  • Bayfront Hospital
  • Discovery Point Silverthorn and Seven Hills
  • Hernando County Administration
  • Hernando County Animal Services
  • Hernando County Emergency Management
  • Hernando County Fire Department
  • Publix (participating stores)
  • Regions Bank (Commercial Way)
  • Silver Dolphin Restaurant
  • Spherion Staffing Services
  • Target (US19)
  • The YMCA
  • Hernando County Detention Center
  • Hernando County Libraries
  • Hernando County Mosquito Control
  • Hernando County Public Works
  • Hernando County Sheriff’s Office
  • HCSO District 1
  • HCSO District 2
  • Hernando County UF/IFAS Extension Office
  • Hernando County Utilities Department

Volunteers are needed to help count, sort, and organize collected items! Sign up to volunteer for our “Give Thanks Give Food” Distribution on November 15th on our online volunteer portal, Lend A Hand, Hernando. For more information about United Way’s “5 Days of Caring,” and to sign up for additional opportunities during the month of November, click here. 

And to spread your own positive community news, send your good news to community reporter Megan Hussey at the Hernando Sun, [email protected]. Show Us Your Sunshine!

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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