As holidays arrive, volunteers get busy

By Katherine Orfinger
In Motion Staff Writer

With the holidays fast approaching, many families are adorning their homes with twinkling lights and wondering what new gadget or toy everyone will be unwrapping on that long-awaited day.

Still, other families are wondering how they are going to put food on the table for their children and if there will be any presents at all during the holidays. While winter is a time of holiday cheer for many, it is a time of hunger and concern for others.

Families and individuals in need, as well as those willing to lend time or monetary assistance need to be aware of how they can receive or give help.

“We donate food, things that are fine to eat like bread and canned goods,” said assistant customer service manager Nikki Gokey, who works at the Trails Publix in Ormond Beach. “Publix donates to Second Harvest. How much varies, but it’s definitely a good amount of food.”

The Second Harvest Food Bank provided 52 million meals to families in Central Florida in 2016. It relies on donations from retailers, growers and wholesalers of unsold grocery items, which are then donated to those in need.

Every dollar donated to Second Harvest purchases $9 worth of groceries for hungry Central Floridians.

In addition to donating food, certain retailers such as Publix, also collect monetary donations from customers during the holiday season, which go directly to Second Harvest. Donations of food can be dropped off at the Volusia County location at 320 North St. in Daytona Beach.

Halifax Urban Ministries’ Feed a Family Homeless Prevention Program works to lower needy families’ grocery bills so that they have more money to spend on rent and other items. Ninety-six percent of each dollar donated is used to directly serve the community. Its Bridge of Hope Daily Hot Meal Program provides 100,000 meals a year to the homeless and others in need. The hot meals are prepared by volunteers and are often the only source of quality nutrition for those receiving the meals. Donations of food — mainly canned goods such as vegetables, meat, soup and beans, in addition to peanut butter, cereal, pasta and rice — are always needed and can be dropped off at 215 Bay St. in Daytona.

The Jewish Federation feeds 24,000 disadvantaged individuals per year. It collects food, clothes, home goods and medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and canes to distribute to the community. Although it is a Jewish organization, 98 percent of those it serves are non-Jewish. It provided 650 families with holiday food baskets in 2016 so that more families in the community could have the best holidays possible.

Additionally volunteers collect holiday gifts in the form of toys for young children and gift cards for teenagers, a demographic that often gets overlooked during the holidays. Donations can be left at Temple Beth-El and Congregation Temple Israel at 579 N. Nova Road, Ormond Beach, or dropped off at the Jewish Federation at 470 Andalusia Ave., also in Ormond.

“The Temple Beth-El youth group collected about 30 bags of food,” said Trienah Meyers, adding that they held a Trick-or-Treat for Hunger food drive during Halloween.

Their mission is one of “tikkun olam,” the care and repair of the world, a Jewish teaching that inhabitants of the Earth should leave it a bit better than they found it.