Last year’s “Give Thanks, Give Food” Drive, hosted by United Way of Hernando County, distributed more than 6,000 lbs. of food, including 264 cans of green beans, 477 lbs. of pasta, and approximately $309 worth of SpaghettiOs and Ravioli, to people in need.
And that was only the beginning! Throughout the month of October, United Way of Hernando County will be hosting its fourth annual “Give Thanks, Give Food” drive. This county-wide effort is set to benefit five local food pantries and shelters in Hernando County: Dawn Center’s Domestic Violence Shelter, St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Pantry, People Helping People’s Weekend Blessings program, Youth and Family Alternatives New Beginnings Youth Shelter, and Mid Florida Homeless Coalition’s outreach efforts.
All non-perishable food donations collected as a part of this very special effort will be sorted, packed, and distributed to all recipient agencies as part of United Way’s month-long “5 Days of Caring” in November.
“Addressing food insecurity and access to basic needs remains a priority within our health and human services network. This annual food drive effort with United Way, along with our 21 other food collection sites throughout October, is designed to make giving easy. Making sure our food pantries and shelters are stocked right before the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Angie B. Walasek, Executive Director/CEO of United Way.
Ed Sweeney, president of SVdP Hernando Citrus District Council, Inc., Spring Hill, says that United Way helps his agency feed its massive clientele of people in need.
“Last year, we provided food to 76,000 individuals and are on track to feed about 72,000 this year. We receive food from the USDA through the Farm Share program, donations from Feeding America through 11 donor grocery stores locally, purchases from the Community Food Bank in Citrus County, and various donations from community food drives and local churches’ collections,” he said. “We distribute about 1.5 million pounds of food a year via our drive-through pickup, which is open six days each week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday. We are staffed almost entirely with volunteers, and it is their dedication that keeps me personally involved (as president, I too am a volunteer).”
Sweeney sees all food collection drives as definite team efforts—ones that result in some mighty good eats.
“The unique thing about United Way food drives is the variety of foods donated,” he said. “These special items allow us to add a little “spice” to the staples in each cartload. Drives also provide some indirect word-of-mouth advertising, which is our primary means of getting the word out about our services.”
And these good eats go for a good cause. “All donated food is going directly to local Hernando County residents in need of food stability and who are utilizing local food pantries, such as ourselves,” said Sweeney. “We are so grateful for the partnership in helping reach those in need throughout Hernando.”
Kendra Kenney, executive director of People Helping People, gives thanks for Give Thanks! “We are always appreciative to be recipients of food drives, especially United Way Give Thanks, Give Food,” she said. “In the past few months, it seems like donations of food for our emergency food pantry have been down, so this help with the United Way’s food drive will be wonderful! I know the Hernando County community cares about its hungry neighbors and will respond.”
Shannon Sokolowski, executive director of The Dawn Center, sees the United Way food drive as a valuable source of aid and support for the residents of the agency’s domestic violence shelter.
The Center is proud to be a United Way partner agency. We are also grateful to be included in the Give Thanks, Give Food collection drive,” she said. “Dawn Center provides a range of no-cost services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, including emergency shelter. Survivors and their children reside in Dawn Center’s shelter throughout the holiday season. Not only does the food received through this donation help fill their stomachs, it fills their hearts! Just knowing that the community cares for them can do so much for survivors who are struggling in so many ways.”
Unopened and unexpired food items can be dropped off at the United Way of Hernando County office (4028 Commercial Way) Monday–Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. In addition, participating locations will be hosting internal food drives throughout October.
Early Learning Coalition of Pasco Hernando
Grow Financial (Mariner Commons)
Hernando County Public Works
Hernando County Supervisor of Elections
Hernando County Utilities Department
LifeSouth Community Blood Center
Regions Bank (Commercial Way and Broad Street)
Target (Commercial Way and Aerial Way)
Tropic Shores Realty, Linda Tacy
Always Near Home Care
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group
Bravera Health Brooksville
Bravera Health Spring Hill
Euphoric Ink Studio
For Each 1 Reach 1 Mentoring Program, Inc. (Official Company Page) (Reach Academy)
Grow Financial Federal Credit Union (Mariner Commons)
“There are so many reasons for us to participate in this food drive,” said Tacy. “I do not want to see anyone without food or a safe place to call home; unfortunately, I cannot gift everyone a home, but I most certainly can collect food and other items that are needed. It does not cost anything to be kind. I have five children of my own, and when they were little, I struggled. If I can help someone not go through what I went through, then my heart is happy. The United Way is an amazing organization, and I am happy to support them every step of the way.”
Dr. Steve Knobl, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties, was quoted as saying, ‘We are grateful for the privilege of once again partnering with UWHC by being a collection site for their annual food drive. This partnership has allowed our board and staff to build a stronger rapport with one of our community’s partner agencies while highlighting the important work being done for families during this time of rising costs and high inflation. This partnership strengthens our mission of building a stronger community so children can succeed in school and in life. The Coalition provides additional nutritional resources to benefit families with young children whose development is critical to building a strong foundation for their future academic and social success.’”
Marisa Pacchiarotti, District Community Development Coordinator of LifeSouth, feels that her agency shares a common goal with United Way of Hernando County. “Through our partnership with United Way, we work together to support the community, and we give back whenever we can,” she said. “We support people from all different walks of life. “The food drive is yet another way to give back and support each other.”
“In addition,” she adds with a smile, “We like for people to have a good meal before they give blood!”
Lillian Stewart, a program director at For Each 1 Reach 1 Mentoring Program, Inc., feels that the United Way food drive brings the concept of philanthropy full circle for staff and students. “The United Way has always been a great partner to us, providing Thanksgiving food baskets for our families in need,” she explained. “Now the kids are having a great time collecting food for the drive. At the end of the day, it’s all about community.”
Also, as part of the “Give Thanks, Give Food” drive, the public is encouraged to save the date for a special give-back opportunity through all Hernando Publix stores on Sunday, October 29th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Select items may be purchased onsite and donated to this fall initiative. Contact United Way of Hernando for more information at 352-688-2026.
Volunteers are needed to help count, sort and organize the collected items. Sign up to volunteer for the “Give Thanks, Give Food” distribution on November 8th and the other five days of caring opportunities through United Way’s Lend A Hand Hernando online volunteer portal, www.UnitedWayHernando.org/Volunteer.