Two more Harry Chapin Food bank staff members will leave for the Panhandle Friday morning to assist in the continuing relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
In the meantime, two others who have been delivering food and supplies to people in the storm- ravaged area will be returning after a week on the road.
On Friday, Eric Hitzeman, the Harry Chapin Food Bank director of operations, will head out to the Second Harvest of the Big Bend food bank in Tallahassee. Nelson Virella, one of our warehouse drivers, is also making the trek to help.
Hitzeman will give relief to the Big Bend operations team over the weekend, then report to Feeding the Gulf Coast Food Bank, which feeds 24 counties in the tri-state area of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
Hitzeman has had special disaster training over the years through Feeding America, and has extensive expertise in managing warehouses and doing hurricane relief work, including Hurricane Irma in Southwest Florida, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Hurricane Ike in Houston, TX.
The Feeding America network is very strong and provided great support to the Harry Chapin Food Bank in the wake of Irma, Hitzeman said. “So we’re giving back a little bit and helping wherever we can.” Hitzeman will be in the field through Nov. 5.
Virella will report to Second Harvest of the Big Bend and stay in Tallahassee for one week, helping with mobile pantries and partner agency deliveries. Virella volunteered to make the trip “to help with the efforts and bring some hope, and let them know they’re not alone up there,” he said of the hurricane victims.
In the meantime, staff member Jose Soto-Cruz, who has been driving one of our mobile pantry trucks up in the Panhandle for a week, along with staff member Edson Pagan, who drove one of the food bank’s box trucks, will leave the Panhandle to head back to Fort Myers on Friday.
The mobilization is in response to Feeding Florida’s request for help. Harry Chapin Food Bank is a member of Feeding Florida, the association of Florida’s 12 food banks, as is Second Harvest of the Big Bend. Other Feeding Florida food banks have also been mobilizing to send water and other resources in response to requests for assistance.
The Harry Chapin Food Bank and its sister food banks in Florida are also members of the national Feeding America network of 200 food banks, which quickly moved in to help in the Carolinas in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, and is now mobilizing to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
To find out more details about what the Feeding Florida food banks are doing to provide relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, or to donate to help, visit www.feedingflorida.org, and click on the Hurricane Michael help box.
You can also send a check or financial donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank locations in Fort Myers or Naples:
•Fort Myers Distribution Center, 3760 Fowler St., Fort Myers, FL 33901
•Collier County Center, 3940 Prospect Ave., Unit 101, Naples, FL 34104
Donations designated for Hurricane Michael relief will be passed on to Feeding Florida or sister food banks in the affected areas. Or, donate by visiting harrychapinfoodbank.org.
About the Harry Chapin Food Bank
The Harry Chapin Food Bank, an affiliate of Feeding America, is the leading hunger-relief organization in Southwest Florida. The food bank solicits, collects and stores food for distribution to families and others in need through a network of more than 150 nonprofit agencies in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties, providing food to about 28,000 people a week.
For every dollar donated, the food bank can provide $8 in food value. In fiscal year 2017-18, The Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed 24 million pounds of food and other grocery items, including 6.4 million pounds of fresh produce. The food, valued at $41.5 million, is the equivalent of 20 million meals for people in need.
The Harry Chapin Food Bank is also recognized as a four-star organization by Charity Navigator, the national nonprofit watchdog organization. The food bank is also a United Way partner agency. For more information or to make a donation, call (239) 334-7007 or visit harrychapinfoodbank.org.
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