When we think about Marco Island, Naples and Collier County in general we close our eyes and envision the sparkling high rises that adorn the golden beaches and the beautiful Gulf waters which lap up along Collier Boulevard, Hideaway Beach, Gordon Drive and north beyond Vanderbilt Beach.
This week many of those homes will see private jets park at the Naples Airport or out at the Marco Executive Airport and deplane the owners of those multimillion-dollar properties. They come here to enjoy a week under the golden sunshine here in Southwest Florida and feast on their Thanksgiving dinners and enjoy time with their families.
There is nothing wrong with that, they’ve earned the right to do it and it is part of the American dream. However, there is another segment of our population that is not so fortunate as many of those who chose to live here, and they too are part of our community.
As such, there are several wonderful organizations who have made it their goal to ensure that nutritional meals are available for those in need. This last weekend one such group, with the assistance of approximately 400 volunteers, assembled under the Greater Marco Island YMCA’S covered outdoor multi-use facility to package nutritional meals for families in need.
Meals of Hope was an effort which was begun by the Naples Rotary Club in 2007. Rotarian Steve Popper’s mother educated him to the connection of hunger with poor educational performance by school aged children in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the Caribbean.
As the effort in Naples grew, Marco Island Rotarian Wayne Purvis would join with Popper and soon the Marco Clubs would join in on that effort to ensure those families living on or near Marco would benefit from the program. The program has since grown by leaps and bounds. The 2020 packaging event was dedicated in Purvis’ memory after his passing.
Just prior to COVID, the effort here on Marco was packaging 225,000 meals each year. Many of those meals were distributed directly to local Marco schools, including the Manatee Elementary and Middle Schools for year-round distribution by the Meals of Hope organization.
The meals packaged last weekend consist of fortified Macaroni and Cheese, as well as fortified Pasta and Tomato Sauce. These meals are fortified with 21 vitamins and minerals and a soy-based protein. Each package will feed up to six people.
On Saturday, November 20, approximately 400 volunteers from as far away as St. John Neumann, Marco’s two Rotary Clubs, the Kiwanians, Marco Island Academy, the Marco Men’s Club and many other organizations and families came together to pack nearly 160,000 meals. The two Rotary Clubs and the Kiwanis Club organize ‘After-Fives’ each year to raise the necessary monies to purchase the food materials for the annual packing event.
The event area is somewhat smaller than previous years, therefore reducing the number of meals which could be packaged. “We are very thankful for the YMCA’s assistance in allowing us to come in and hold the event here, both last year and this year,” said Bill Morris who holds the title of “Captain Hope” from the Sunrise Rotary Club. He, along with his “logistics chair” Eric Condee, who also wears the hat as President of the Sunrise Rotary Club, come together each year along with the many volunteers to insure a successful event.
If you’re seeking more information regarding the Meals of Hope organization or wish to donate simply go to www.mealsofhope.org.