This spring in Hernando, families in need will be blessed with the gift of nourishing meals–marking the return of a community tradition.
People Helping People (PHP) In Hernando County, is an interfaith, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, that provides food, clothing, and other basic necessities to people in Hernando County. PHP has long hosted a Sunday Blessings cafe; a weekly meal served in partnership with area restaurants, in which families sit down together in the HELP Center dining room, 1396 Kass Circle in Spring Hill.
“With the opening of our community building, we had the idea to host a community dinner. Before COVID, we had as many as 100 people here each Sunday,” said Becky Burton, retired Executive Director, People Helping People in Hernando County, Inc. “With the onset of COVID, we started a pickup, carry out service.”
But on May 1 the sit-down cafe returned.
Hosted in conjunction with 36 area companies, organizations, and restaurants, the cafe offers a deluxe dining experience for people and families in need. The Sunday Blessings meals are intended for needy individuals and families whose income is registered below the poverty level. To receive a free meal, PHP needs an income statement from payroll, Social Security, disability or verification of SNAP benefits. Once this information has been verified, the person or family is welcome to come each Sunday for dinner.
“It’s set up like a restaurant, with servers and main courses that could vary from pulled pork to pasta dinners to ziti, rice, and beans, or chicken,” said Burton, “depending on the restaurant hosting the cafe that day.”
Participating restaurants serve a full spectrum of culinary fare, including catered fare (Betty Marie’s Meals Catering), American-style dining (Applebee’s, Cheddar’s, Cracker Barrel, Bonefish Grill, Cody’s Original Roadhouse, Glory Days Grill, LongHorn Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse, Hooters), international fare (Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chefs of Napoli, Chili’s, Gigi’s Pizza and Pasta, La Bella Napoli, Outback Steakhouse, La Cucina Internazionale Food Truck and Papa Joe’s), local favorites (Gator’s Dockside), and fun fast food (Chick-fil-a, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s). Organizations that support the program include Brooksville Elks Lodge #2582, Christ the Savior Church, Eagles Club Chapter 4497, GlenLakes Bible Study, GlenLakes Wednesday and Saturday Golf, Hallcrest Eagles Lodge #4497, Hernando County Professional Firefighters, High Point Lions, and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Pam and Bob Yonker, Rotary International of Spring Hill, Rotary International Spring Hill Central, State Farm, Temple Beth David Sisterhood, and WREC Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, Inc.
In addition to onsite meals, guests can take home bagged bread, and pastries to take home.
“Many people were grateful,” said Burton. “For a financially stressed family, where they worry about rent, medical bills, etc., this is one less thing to worry about.”
The cafe experience also serves up an ample serving of positive social interaction.
“They get to enjoy a meal with some of their friends,” said Burton.
On a consistent basis, PHP gets positive feedback from their patrons, with Burton sharing quotes from satisfied diners. Guest Wanda said, “Thank you so much for tonight’s meal!!! The kids are loving it…you guys are such a blessing every Sunday!!” Guest Mollie said, “My family and I picked up Sunday Blessings yesterday 3/20/22 for the first time. We just wanted to let you know how much we appreciated the meals, and they were delicious! And we were so grateful to receive 3 bags of breads and products from Publix bakery! Even though we receive food stamps, and shop and eat as economically as possible, we never have enough to make it through the whole month. We can’t thank you enough for your help. G-d bless you all!”
At this time, community volunteers are needed to staff the Sunday Blessings Cafe. Volunteers are needed to help serve meals Sunday afternoons in the wake of the dining room’s reopening on May 1.
Volunteer duties at the cafe will include setting up, serving, and cleaning up one Sunday a month from 2-5 pm. Volunteers should be 16 or older unless supervised as a part of a youth group activity. Individuals or groups can call 352-686-4466 if interested.
“All you really need,” said Burton, “is the heart to serve.”