In preparation for Thanksgiving, the Grace Community Food Pantry was once again the hub for Feed Flagler, now in its 12th year.
“I feel like God has been so good to us that we want to give back to those in need,” said Feed Flagler Team Leader and Grace Volunteer Coordinator Dottie Colletta. “If I ever feel exhausted, I just remember: ‘There’s so many families in need. You can’t afford to be exhausted.’”
In 2020, Feed Flagler raised over $30,000, the largest amount ever, to give out 955 gift cards worth $25 each and have some left over to start next year’s campaign. In addition, the group will be feeding 425 hot Thanksgiving to-go meals for families, distributed at local churches. Fifty gift cards were also provided for Flagler Schools families.
Colletta pointed out that Winn-Dixie in Palm Coast contributed $5,000 as well as a 5% gift-card discount. Flowers Bakery donated rolls, and Lowe’s donated bottled water.
Colletta was joined by fellow Team Leaders Diane Dieter and Deborah Snedeker in the effort. Michele Seyfort, of Palm Coast United Methodist Church, and Pastor Terry Wines, of First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, were also instrumental.
Grand Haven volunteers
On Friday, Nov. 20, food was trucked from Winn-Dixie to the food pantry at 245 Education Way, where volunteers from the Grand Haven Women’s Club sorted it for distribution.
Annette Felahis and Patty Hartsfield are the co-chairwomen for the Grand Haven Women’s Club, which recently raised over $600 and contributed 677 pounds of food.
Hartsfield said the club has also volunteered at PCUMC’s Our Father’s Table, which feeds 50 homeless families every Saturday.
“It gave us a huge lesson in humility,” said Hartsfield, a former middle school educator. “And it gave us such an awareness of the need in Flagler County.” The club also has collected cleaning products, gift cards and toiletries for the Family Life Center.
Grand Haven Women’s Club member Terry Burde also assisted with the Nov. 20 distribution. A former nurse recruiter, Burde said she became motivated to volunteer when she cycled down U.S. 1 with some other club members and saw the line of cars waiting to receive food at the Grace Community Food Pantry.
“I know what we’re doing means something,” Burde said.
Another club member, Gail Naworal, is a former principal from Maryland. She has been motivated to help with the Grace Backpack Program, which sends six to eight pounds food home with school children, so that they have enough to eat over the weekend. Over the past seven years, the program has helped 15,000 school children.
“There are so many children who rely on the schools for their food,” Naworal said.
Colletta was grateful for the efforts of all the volunteers, but she said the effort isn’t limited to Thanksgiving. Because of the pandemic, the number of families assisted by the food pantry each month has gone up from about 3,000 per month to 5,500 per month.
Like Burde, many others have seen the long lines of cars and felt compelled to call. The pantry isn’t taking on new volunteers beyond the 100 or so it already has, Colletta said, but monetary donations are still welcome. Canned goods can also be dropped off at certain times, but money is the best way to help because the pantry can buy food inexpensively through Second Harvest Food Bank.
As the sorting concluded, Food Pantry Director Charles Silano, pastor of Grace Tabernacle Ministries, entered the warehouse after driving a forklift to unload another Second Harvest truck. His general absence from Feed Flagler is both a reminder of the effort he undertakes with weekly food distribution, and it’s also a testament to the success of others in taking over the logistics.
“These are the best volunteers ever,” he said. Pointing to Colletta, he said, “She tells me, ‘This has to be done,’ I forget it, and she reminds me. They’ve gotten really good at this. I rarely have to oversee anything.”
“There’s a need, and Jesus has called us,” Colletta said.