Feeding South Florida hosts volunteer event amid Michael relief efforts

PEMBROKE PARK, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida food bank opened its doors to the community for a hands-on opportunity to join ongoing relief efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

Dozens of volunteers came together at Feeding South Florida’s warehouse in Pembroke Park to help sort and pack food and supplies, Tuesday night.

“We’re going to go through these boxes, we’re gonna make sure the boxes only have a pop-top meal,” a Feeding South Florida employee told a volunteer as she supervised the community effort.

Paco Velez with Feeding South Florida said the event, called a “hurricane help-a-thon,” shows South Floridians’ generous side.

“Volunteers come from the community that want to be involved, want to to dig in, want to get their hands dirty and really help our neighbors up in the Panhandle,” he said.

The food bank issued a call for volunteers, and people answered. 7News cameras captured a team of volunteers as they sorted, logged and packed donated items into boxes that will be put in a truck bound for North Florida.

“We have a full slew of volunteers in three different rooms, packing meals, packing cleaning supplies, packing hygiene items,” said Velez.

Earlier on Tuesday, cameras captured waist-high stacks of tarps, lanterns and diapers, as work crews put clusters of boxes in the truck.

Volunteer Frank Suzara helped pack ready-to-eat meals for storm victims.

“We’re glad to help this service,” he said.

The help-a-thon delivered big results. Close to 15,000 meals will be taken to hurricane victims as early as Wednesday.

“We want to do something. We’re really concerned about the people up in the north of Florida,” said volunteer Lauren Fine.

Fine hopes her children learn a life lesson along the way.

“It’s important for them to understand that every little action that’s taken helps everybody,” she said.

Fine’s children agreed.

“I feel like I’m really helping other people,” said her daughter, Stella Fine.

“I want to know that we’re helping the community in Florida,” said her son, Jasper Fine.

But even with truckloads worth of supplies, the food bank will need a lot more donations in the weeks and months to come.

Velez said families in hard-hit areas will likely require assistance for months.

“This hurricane really wiped out a lot of homes, and there are folks who are going to be in shelters for quite some time,” he said.

Among supplies in high demand are:

  • pop top can meals and soup (pop top cans are items that do not need a can opener)
  • cereal
  • peanut butter
  • instant soup mix
  • granola bars
  • water
  • personal hygiene items
  • cleaning supplies
  • diapers
  • batteries

WSVN has donated $50,000 to Feeding South Florida in their relief efforts.

WSVN Vice President and General Manager Paul Magnes said, when neighbors are in need, South Florida steps up.

“We see it as we saw last year, now in the Panhandle this year, if we can make a difference, that’s what we want to do,” he said.

The Weston Rotary Club is also accepting donations this week. 7News cameras captured volunteers loaded a truck in the parking lot of the Weston Ale House that will head to the Panhandle on Thursday.

“It’s those who aren’t affected helping those who are,” said Frank Walker with the Weston Rotary Club. “It’s what it’s all about.”

The local entity will be accepting canned goods until Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, a group of Miami-Dade Police officers gathered building supplies as they prepared to head upstate to help repair the homes of local law enforcement officials whose property sustained damage but are stuck working around the clock after the storm.

“We certainly remember the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew when that hit here and how we received assistance from all the deputies from around the state,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez, “so we’re going to give a little back today to an area that much needs the assistance.”

Feeding South Florida is looking for volunteers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). It is also hiring drivers with a CDL-A license to drive tractor-trailers over 26 feet long. If you would like to apply, send an email to operations@feedingsouthflorida.org.

For more information or to donate online, click here.

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