Angels are well-known bringers of sunshine. And these heavenly beings, in all their grace and beneficence, are not particularly known for their fighting skills. Yet when presented with a challenge to do good for others, and in memory of a good friend, they really throw it down!
In the Angels vs. Angels Canned Food Drive, Visiting Angels--a senior care and home care services provider based locally in Spring Hill--is engaged in a friendly competition with the unaffiliated Angels Home Health in Ocala to collect the most canned food for two beneficiaries: Serving Our Savior (SOS) Food Pantry in Citrus County and Marion Senior Services in Marion County.
Although their beneficiary agency is located far from them in the geographic sense, the SOS Food Pantry is close to the hearts of the Visiting Angels; this owing to the fact that John Bourdeaux, who founded the food pantry at Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Lecanto, was a Visiting Angels patient for many years.
"Mr. Bourdeaux was very special to us, it is so important to me that we do everything we can!" said Veronica Tourgeman, Director of Visiting Angels. "We collect the food in honor of a longtime client who cared so much--offering food and financial assistance to people in need."
The inaugural Angels vs Angels food drive took place last year. And while Visiting Angels reigned victorious in the first competition, this year's food drive holds special meaning.
John Bourdeaux passed away Oct. 9 at the age of 79.
"He was so excited to hear, just before he passed, that we were hosting the food drive again," said Tourgeman.
And in honoring their friend, Visiting Angels also honors the growing number of families in need currently visiting SOS, now based at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lecanto and co-managed by nine area churches.
"Our clients are No. 1," said Mari Aliaga, an operations specialist at Visiting Angels. "This is a way we can help the community further."
And, she notes, have a lot of fun doing so.
"We're wrapping the collection boxes in table cloths that have pictures of leaves and pumpkins--definitely fall oriented," said Aliaga, adding with a smile. "We've been rubbing it in the faces of Angels Home Health that we're going to win."
"This year’s winner is having lunch sponsored by the losing office," said Tourgeman, "and the winner is determined by number of items donated."
Yet while the Angels vs Angels Food Drive is conducted in fun, lying at the heart of this campaign are some very serious issues.
"More people than ever are seeking help this year," said Deacon Gail Towell, Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church. "Many of whom have never asked for help before."
Those who wish to help can drop off non-perishable food donations at three Visiting Angels office locations until November 6. Items requested included soups, cereals, peas and carrots, canned meats like tuna, Vienna sausage, ham, Spam, chicken, pork and beans, spaghetti, and ravioli.
"2020 has been a difficult year for so many," reads an event flier. "With the holiday season just around the corner, Visiting Angels is preparing to help families put holiday meals on their tables."
Those interested may drop items off at all of the following Visiting Angel locations during their regular business hours:
Visiting Angels Spring Hill: 5331 Commercial Way Ste 200 Spring Hill, 34606
Visiting Angels Inverness Training Center: 3382 E. Gulf to Lake Hwy Inverness, 34453
Visiting Angels Ocala: 8405 SW 80th Street Ste 14 Ocala, 34481
Visiting Angels also are partnering with local businesses to aid them in their hunger-relief efforts and stresses that more partnerships are needed at this time.
"Please call 352-805-9160," said Tourgeman. "We will be glad to bring a box to your business! We will take care of pickup/delivery of all donations to the food pantry for you!"
While several businesses and organizations are hosting Angels vs Angels boxes, including The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, 15588 Aviation Loop Dr., Brooksville, more is needed.
"The need is more critical than ever, and we collect for food drives both inside and outside the county," said Morris Porton, president of The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. "With kids homeschooling, they may be missing out on school lunches. And, of course, families want to have good meals for the holidays."
Porton says that more donations are critically needed for this and other drives.
Yet with the power of Angels behind this effort, and the spirit of John Bourdeaux looking on, Deacon Towell knows that good will prevail--and that this very special SOS will be answered.
"I've found that when people need something," she said, "God finds a way."
Send your good news notices to community reporter Megan Hussey at [email protected] Show us your 'Sun'shine!