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HOLIDAY FOOD DRIVE

Church food pantry takes over annual Feed Flagler effort

'The poor will always be with you'

By Matt Bruce
matt.bruce@news-jrnl.com

Published: Monday, November 9, 2015 at 5:19 p.m.

When Becky Bergeron began volunteering at the Grace Tabernacle Community Food Pantry two years ago, she was recovering from a broken back and had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

She said she was withering away until her husband dropped her off at the food center one day. Now she comes to the pantry twice a week and is one of more than 100 volunteers who work there year round, bagging groceries, stocking supplies and stowing deliveries.

“Because I'm working here, giving back to the community and working for the Lord, I feel so much better — 100 percent better,” she said.

Grace Community Pantry doled out about 1.5 million pounds of food to the homeless and families in need last year, and organizers anticipate going beyond that total this year. It runs off private donations from local grocers, church groups, former clients and other givers. The Palm Coast food bank will take the reins as the host of this year's Feed Flagler community food drive.

“We feel really blessed to be able to do it,” said Charles Silano, pastor of Grace Tabernacle Ministries. “It's one more thing to do, and it's a lot of work. But everyone who's involved in it, they're all excited.”

Silano began the pantry as a small operation when he founded the Palm Coast church in 1998. Now the pantry distributes about 30,000 pounds of food every weekend, primarily from its 3,800-square-foot storage facility just off U.S. 1 near Royal Palms Parkway.

Silano said his team began meeting in September to start planning for Feed Flagler. It's the seventh installment of the annual Thanksgiving food drive, which is aimed at providing a holiday meal for anyone in need. Flagler County government has coordinated each of the past six community efforts, but handed the lead role to Grace Community Pantry this year.

“As the Good Book says, 'The poor will always be with you,' and we have a responsibility as individuals to participate as best can,” Flagler County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin said.

The county is still participating as one of more than a dozen donor groups. McLaughlin said officials decided to step down from leading Feed Flagler because the county staff continues to grow busier as the economy picks up.

“It's been an exciting thing for the county to be involved in,” he said. “There are time constraints that (Silano) was able to fill and we're very excited about his willingness to stand up and fill that void.”

Collections are under way and the donated goods are scheduled to be dropped off Nov. 17-20 at the Cattleman's Hall on the Flagler County Fairgrounds. Volunteers will then sort the donated items and create family meal boxes to supply 10 Flagler County churches, which will serve as distribution centers. Each of the boxes will include a frozen turkey and non-perishable items necessary to complete a Thanksgiving dinner. The churches will distribute the meal boxes to families that signed up to receive them.

Silano estimated the effort will provide nearly 800 Thanksgiving dinners this year.

The United Way's Women's Initiative Flagler Chapter's Chicks with Cans won the Feed Flagler team challenge last year for the fifth consecutive time. The volunteer group collected nearly 30,000 pounds of food. Linda Mahran, who serves as the Women's Initiative's secretary, said the team has more than 40 volunteers this year and they began collecting cans outside Publix stores in mid-October.

“This helps out the families in need right here in Flagler County, and I think that is one of the things that makes it a great volunteering experience,” she said. “You also get to interact with members of our community. We hear a lot of interesting stories from the customers about their lives when they needed a helping hand, and now they're willing to give back.”

Free hot meals will be served to the homeless and anyone else looking to eat at four locations on Nov. 25 and on Thanksgiving Day.

“This is a need in this community and it's being filled by Feed Flagler,” Bergeron said. “Pastor Charlie really, really preaches the word of God. And he not only preaches it, he lives it. He says, 'Go feed your people,' and feeds the people.”


Community Thanksgiving Celebration News!!!

Team Feed Flagler Transitions to Grace Community Food Pantry

As a result of the increasing outreach and success of the Team Feed Flagler Community Thanksgiving Celebration, this year's event will be organized and managed by the Grace Community Food Pantry along with Pastor Charles Silano and his team.  This is the 7th Annual Community Thanksgiving Celebration, and promises to enliven the theme, Focusing on the Family.  
"This year's event will focus on families spending quality time together while enjoying a home cooked holiday meal, either at home through our Family Meal Box distribution or enjoying a hot meal at one of our serving locations", Pastor Charles said.  Updated listings of how to sign up to receive a Family Meal Box (boxes are limited; sign up today) or where during Thanksgiving week you will be able to join in enjoying a hot Thanksgiving meal are available at www.feedflagler.org  
If you are looking to help this celebration become a great success, please contact Dottie  Colette at colletta48@bellsouth.net  
You can assist in two ways:

Collect and donate non-perishable food and donate at  our main distribution center or look for other donation centers at www.feedflagler.org
Contribute monetarily to the celebration through checks made out to Grace Community Food Pantry noting Team Feed Flagler or donate by credit card by clicking on the "Donate" tab in this website.

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