Since mid-March Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. has helped distribute food to thousands of individuals and families across Collier County and many more across the Diocese.
Food pantries are seeing surging numbers of people who are impacted by job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 27, 2020, Rebecca Maddox, owner of Three60 Market in Naples, teamed up with Catholic Charities in Collier County to provide healthy cooked meals to families at three locations, Naples, Bonita Springs and Immokalee. The packaged food included a roasted chicken with vegetables and a side of rolls. Maddox explained that while her business is impacted by the coronavirus restrictions, she wanted to give back to those in the community who are struggling to put a meal on the table.
Clarita Marquez learned about the food distribution at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center from her mother. She lost two jobs – both in local restaurants – and her mother lost her job as a housekeeper for a local hotel. There are six in the house together with very little money left for food after paying bills for a mortgage, car payments and utilities.
“Thank you all so much. This is so wonderful,” Marquez said. “We will make this food last a few days. It’s what needs to be done.”
Each location was provided 100 meals, which was above what food is already being distributed weekly at area food pantries. At the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center in Naples the volunteers helping with the packaging and distribution included Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Board of Directors Members Rita Cavuoto and Dick Rogan.
The second stop during the day was to a migrant work camp in Bonita Springs, and then in the evening at Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee. Catholic Charities DOV CEO Philomena Pereira, said the food was gone within 30 minutes at both of those locations.
“In fact, we ran out of food in Immokalee,” Pereira explained. “Luckily, we had pastries and bread to give out and boxes of snacks from Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers.”
While the healthy meals were a onetime opportunity for families to receive extra food, pantries have been set up in six location throughout the Diocese of Venice with hours each week to accommodate the growing number of people in need.
“We are still seeing the number go up very fast,” Pereira said.
The busiest food pantry location is in Fort Myers, at the Elizabeth K. Galeana Center, where each Friday people begin lining up for food more than an hour before the food pantry opens and then there is a steady stream of vehicles all day long.
Catholic Charities Response to Pandemic
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.
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 www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.