Francisco Hernandez does not want to go to the food pantry run by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, but he has little choice. “I have to feed my children.”
Hernandez was inside one of dozens of vehicles which stopped by the food pantry on the morning of June 12, 2020, which is open the second and fourth Fridays of each month to help families impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The food distribution efforts began in late May coinciding with drastic increases in local unemployment as farming in the area reduced or ceased operations.
“I was working 60-70 hours a week,” said Hernandez about his work on a nearby farm. “I worked 10 hours this week and was fortunate for that.”
The rural farming community relies on the agricultural industry for jobs but disruptions in nationwide demand caused farms to shorten or alter their production seasons leaving many with no work.
With five children, Hernandez said he knows of other assistance available in the community, but he trusts Catholic Charities. “The Church is here for us. We support the Church when we can. Now we can’t, so they are helping us. God bless you all,” he said as bags of food were loaded into the back of his vehicle.
Some of the vehicles which came through the distribution line were picking up food for multiple families which didn’t have transportation. The food, mostly dry goods – such as rice, beans and canned food – should support families for a few weeks.
Gloria Romero, the Catholic Charities Regional Director covering the programs in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties, said the agency is meeting a specific need in the community.
“We know that this food makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve,” Romero explained. “Taking away the worry about whether or not they will be able to adequately feed their children is a big deal. We are in this for the long-haul.”
The food pantry at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia is one of six distribution points strategically located throughout the Diocese of Venice. Since mid-March thousands of individuals and families have been assisted with more than 450,000 pounds of food. That total does not even include the thousands of others who have received financial assistance for emergency bills or those who are seeking help through tele-mental health counseling.
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.
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 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- 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.
- Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, Soup Kitchen providing take-out/meals-to-go;
- 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;
- 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.