Tis the season of Holiday spirit! Lights are strung, decorations displayed, jolly music and magical meals shared with loved ones. It is also the season of giving. There are over 2,000 individuals in Orange county without a home, and over 200 of those are families. It is our job as a community to come together to help those in need. Second Harvest Food Bank and Central Florida Diaper Bank are just two of the numerous organizations in Orlando where you can donate and volunteer your time.
Second Harvest Food Bank is one of our local food banks that distribute 300,000 meals every day to our community. Dan Samuels, Director of Philanthropy, has been with Second Harvest for four years and has been working in the non-profit space for close to 20 years. Part of Dan’s job is to engage the community in being a part of Second Harvest’s mission by sharing local stories. “So many people in our community are living day to day, making it just fine until something happens and pushes them over that edge. So along with putting food on their table we are also trying to shorten the line of those that need food assistance by addressing where the root of that hunger comes from.” Hunger is just the symptom of a lot of other things going on in the life. Whether someone’s child got sick and now they have medical bills, or their car broke down, or rent went up, and now they are having to choose between these issues or putting food on the table. These people are your neighbors. That is why it is so crucial for each of us to get involved.
Second Harvest has numerous ways for you to give back, starting with funds and donations. For every dollar donated, they can translate that into four meals going out into the community. You can donate online at any time and can drop food off any day of the year, Monday through Friday. You can also volunteer your time. They are always looking for volunteers to help pack meals and deliver food. Lastly, you can advocate for Second Harvest. Simply spreading the word, reading and sharing this article helps, and talking with people about the needs in our community helps bring awareness. “The only way we can ever tackle the problem of food insecurity is by coming together as a community. By more people getting involved. And the first way we can do that is by understanding what hunger looks like in our community.” Dan said. If you are looking to start getting involved with Second Harvest, please visit their website Feedhopenow.org and start today. And remember, hunger doesn’t just exist during the Holidays; they need volunteers year-round.
“If you, or somebody you know, is experiencing hunger, there is hope, and there is a resource at Second Harvest to help. Go to Feedhopenow.org, clock on need help, and there is a food finder to help you find the closest food pantry near you. We are here to help; it’s why we exist.”
The Central Florida Diaper Bank (CFDB) was founded 27 years ago by Sharon Lyles. “I started the Central Florida Diaper Bank because there was one day in my life where I had one diaper and the adhesive strip on the diaper would not stick. It was a terrible feeling and I did not want another parent to experience the pain and agony that I felt. My goal is to ensure that every baby in the Central Florida Community has clean diapers.” Shannon said. CFDB’s mission is to provide diapers and other basic essentials to families with children ages 0-3 to ensure that every child and family has their basic needs met. They provide diapers for newborns 5,6,7, pullups in various sizes, diaper rash cream, body wash, and lotion for babies. The CFDB also provides formula, period supplies for women and have just started providing post-partum kits for mothers. They are always in need of supply donations, but you can also help by donating your time. “We need volunteers to help pack diapers and hygiene kits. We need a fundraiser, a Public Relations firm to help tell our story. Become an ambassador and help raise awareness about our mission. And as always, Donors.” Shannon explained.
If you are looking to get involved this Holiday season or year-round, then please visit their website, centralfloridadiaperbank.org. The Central Florida Diaper Bank will be hosting Diaper Distributions to families in Orange county on December 1, 8, 13, 15, 21, and 22. You can contact their office for location details at 407-656-7055. “Our mission is to help struggling families with infants and toddlers meet their children's basic needs. As you prepare for the holiday season please consider a donation of your talent, time, and treasures to help us to achieve this goal for our families during this holiday season. Help us Change Lives from the Bottom Up!”
Matthew’s Hope (MH) is another local food bank located here in Winter Garden. Andrea Pumar is the Director of Orange County and has been with MH for three years. Her role is to oversee staff, volunteers, and guests to ensure the purpose of their mission is what Pastor Scott envisions. At Matthew’s Hope, they take their mission beyond just feeding the community. “Our mission is to help our guests help themselves. It could be providing food out of the pantry to giving them the opportunity to work in the wood shop.” Andrea said. They also offer numerous programs such as transitional housing, a medical home, and the Firm Foundation, which is a preschool and daycare where children have activities and play but also learn self-care. MH also has the Moving Forward Program, which is a way for their guests to improve their life, gain skills, and earn points to obtain items of need. Guests can even work part-time or full-time at Matthew’s Hope Ministries. This program offers people the chance to rebuild their life, building their self-worth and giving them purpose.
There are so many great ways to get involved at MH, by volunteering and donating, you can help ensure their ministry can provide for those in need. Donations such as non-perishable food items, clothing items, hygiene items, tents, and sleeping bags are always needed. Monetary donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated as well. You can also volunteer your time by making sandwiches, packing snack bags, or helping transport guests to their Outreach Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you would like to become a volunteer at Matthew’s Hope, send an email to email@example.com and let them know what you are looking to get involved in. While MH doesn’t have any designated days for a food drive, anyone can coordinate their own and drop off their donations by setting up a time and date. So, the next time you host a party (maybe even this holiday season), have each of your guests bring a few canned goods items, and we can all help feed our community! Andrea wanted to remind the community of one more thing, “Remember that this is the season of giving, and recognize that Jesus sacrificed himself so that we can love and serve others on his behalf.”
While you enjoy the time spent with family, remember the people who are in need are our neighbors. It takes all of us coming together to make sure our neighbors have the basic essentials in life. This doesn’t just take place during the Holidays; our community needs help all year long. This year, give the gift that never stops and donate what you can, whether that is food, money, or your time. We all can make a difference.