DAYTONA BEACH | Charity Palacios has never known hunger, but she says her mother did. That fact makes her more aware of food insufficiency around her. As a high school teacher, she knows students who go hungry daily. When a friend recently called pleading for assistance “right now” to fill grocery bags for the hungry, the Prince of Peace parishioner from Ormond Beach jumped at the chance to serve. She recruited her three children and two nephews and headed to the Ocean Center where the Feed-A-Family project was already underway.
“As a Catholic, it doesn’t matter to me what organization it is. There’s work to be done,” she said. She loved the idea “of coming to that common place of doing good” regardless of religion or political affiliation.
Halifax Urban Ministries’ (HUM) Feed-A-Family program began in May 2020 at the request of Volusia County, which is funding the cost of filling 2,000 grocery bags weekly through September. Each bag feeds a family of four approximately seven to ten meals per week. As unemployment and food insufficiency increased exponentially due to the pandemic, the county sought out HUM to coordinate the effort. One hundred twelve volunteers packed more than 1,700 bags of groceries distributed to schools, interfaith organizations and pantries throughout the county on June 10. HUM normally supplies 15 schools and seven pantries in the county, but Donna Dooley, HUM’s director of operations, said this goes far beyond what they have done in the past.
Volunteers from 14 churches, including Our Lady of Lourdes in Daytona Beach and St. Brendan in Ormond Beach, the Daytona Beach Housing Authority, Hilton Hotels, the Chamber of Commerce and more banded together for the cause. The result is a community effort, reaching beyond boundaries, united in the desire to take care of their neighbor.
Dooley said, “It builds partnerships. We have so many volunteers who want to continue.” She said many offer ideas to “finesse” the operation. Most volunteers are retirement age, “so the wisdom you get to work from is just phenomenal,” she added.
For Palacios, participating as a family was a priceless experience. “What I really appreciated about this was the opportunity to get my kids involved,” she said. Her three children and two nephews range in age from 9 to 15. “They have a job and they’re empowered to help,” she added. “When they see we packed food for more than 1,000 families, giving them a week’s worth of groceries because of two hours we put in, sweating, it was wonderful for them. They were even awed by it. I hope they remember these are going to their friends, to people that they know. Although you may not know they’re hungry, they are people in need.
“It was a true sense of community. I especially like putting some of that sweat equity into it… Getting your hands dirty is the most fulfilling kind of volunteerism we can have,” she noted. “With this COVID pandemic, my family has been lucky to be able to continue working. We’ve been trying to do all we can to help those who have not been as fortunate as we are. This was a way to make sure the families that need help most are receiving it.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, June 24, 2020