Tens of thousands fed, provided assistance by Catholic Charities as demand increases

A bag of food, some fruit and bread and a few sweets for the children brought many smiles to the families who came to Immokalee on June 3, 2020 to the food distribution at Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc.

Catholic Charities has been at the forefront of outreach into communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting nearly 44,000 individuals in nearly 10 weeks, a massive increase in demand in comparison to a normal year when approximately 90,000 individuals are assisted through 37 different programs.

“Life is getting increasingly difficult for many of the individuals reaching out to Catholic Charities,” said Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira. “In addition, the need for rent and utility assistance has soared. Due to the continued inability to work and earn a paycheck, so many are struggling to put food on their table and keep a roof over their heads.”

The Immokalee site is one of six emergency food distribution points throughout the Diocese of Venice that is being operated by Catholic Charities. In the period between March 24 and May 31, 2020, Catholic Charities reported distributing 425,873 pounds of food such as canned goods, rice and beans and maseca to 37,557 individuals (11,300 households). In addition, 389 elderly have been assisted through a pantry on wheels outreach, while another 1,995 hot meals/sandwiches have been provided thanks to Three60 Market of Naples.

In the same period, 2,509 have called the Catholic Charities hotlines seeking a variety of assistance. COVID-19 tele-mental health video and telephone therapy has assisted 520, while 233 families (714 individuals) have received emergency financial assistance.

“Yet, through all the hardships, we have seen amazing love and generosity,” Pereira said. “We are so grateful for the support Catholic Charities continues to receive. As a result of that generosity, we can help children and families suffering from the ramifications of COVID-19 virus.”

Donors have been critical in ensuring Catholic Charities has the funds to continue to purchase food from the various regional food banks. One donor provided money to boost the spirits of children for an ice cream party in Clewiston on June 5, 2020. The event took place in the Parish Hall of St. Margaret Parish with social distancing and everyone wearing a mask – except while eating the ice cream.

The reward for the dedicated Catholic Charities staff and volunteers is the grateful smile on the faces of the children and parents who know that they will have one less thing to worry about as they struggle through the crisis.

“We have been and continue to deliver services,” Pereira said. “Without missing a beat, we are helping families in great need across the 10-counties of the Diocese of Venice.”


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.

  • Monday-Friday, 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;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia;

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.