Bishop visits food distribution site

On a beautiful early May Friday morning the line of vehicles entering the parking lot of the Bonita Springs offices of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. was growing before the first bags of food were distributed.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in what is becoming a regular routine, visited this Catholic Charities site on May 8, 2020, to show his support and learn from the staff what the last few weeks have been like and if they were getting enough support.

Food was bagged earlier in the week and everything was put on tables outside for easy distribution in what is a weekly ritual for the staff at this office on the property of St. Leo the Great Parish. Bishop Dewane assisted in the process, joining a well-organized ballet of people each tasked with loading vehicles with specific packages.

“It is rewarding to see all of the people Catholic Charities can help during this crisis,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is made possible thanks to the generosity those who support Catholic Charities in their efforts. Thank You! You are making a tremendous difference.”

Bishop Dewane first helped stack boxes of food provided by the Harry Chapin Food Bank while others brought out bagged food, grapefruits, apples and water. When the first vehicle came through the line, the bishop opted to load the half-cases of bottled water – minimum two per vehicle and more when the person was collecting food for multiple families. Bags were filled with maeseca (corn flour), rice, beans, oil and canned meats and vegetables.

Impressed by the organization and efficiency of the effort, Bishop Dewane complimented everyone for their hard work. He was told of the high demand and the uncertainty many have about future employment which result is difficult choices between buying food and paying other important bills while earning no income.

The Bonita Springs site is one of several emergency food distribution points throughout the Diocese of Venice that is being operated by Catholic Charities. In the six-week period between March 24 and April 30, 2020, Catholic Charities reported distributing 240,187 pounds of food such a canned good, rice and beans and maseca to 23,627 individuals and families. In addition, 1,185 hot meals have also been provided. In the same period, about 1,500 have called the Catholic Charities hotlines seeking a variety of additional help.

Those numbers represent a tremendous increase in outreach when compared to an average year when Catholic Charities serves some 90,000 families and individuals through 37 different programs.

“These are extraordinary times we are living in and the result is a tremendous surge in demand,” Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. “The need is not going away and growing in some areas. Please consider supporting Catholic Charities. No donation is too small as we strive to get through this crisis helping as many our brothers and sisters in Christ as we can.”

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Mondays, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee,
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples,
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston,
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs,
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers,
  • Saturdays, 7–8:45 a.m., St. Michael Parish, 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula.

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.