Mike Wilcox Office Manager

Mike Wilcox became passionate about helping others while volunteering with his children at Citrus County Blessings.  He saw the difference the agency made and wanted to pursue an opportunity where he could make an impact full-time.

Today, Mike handles all of the everyday office duties at the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC), from answering the phone and greeting guests to managing the databases and coordinating volunteers. He also earned his ServSafe Manager certification. Mike especially enjoys mentoring and fostering the spirit of volunteerism in the teenagers and young adults who work after school and during the summer in the CFBCC warehouse.

When not working at the CFBCC, Mike enjoys volunteering at organizations throughout the community. He also handles homeschooling duties for his four children.  He has one dog, four lizards and one fish.

Special thank you to Katya Guillaume for coming out to produce this incredible story for Bay News 9. Check it out!

Homeschool Groups Tap into Creativity to Support the Community Food Bank of Citrus County
Hot off the presses! Aubrey Boggs, Easton Boggs, Riley Boggs, Layton
Boogs, Hayden Milby and Emma Milby proudly display their works of art.

Local homeschoolers are tapping into their creativity to help support the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC).  The students are creating stylish Faith Over Fear themed t-shirts and offering them at the Howard’s Flea Market in Homosassa for a $15.00 donation which goes directly to the CFBCC.

Christine Milby is the founder and organizer of this effort, which is receiving much support and accolades from the community.

“Every Faith Over Fear t-shirt is made by a Citrus County homeschool student,” explains Milby. “Businesses provide funds for the t-shirts in exchange for having their company advertised on the back of the tees.” 

Daniel and Tuesday Northsea own and operate Dirty Ape Ink in Crystal River. Dan spends time teaching area homeschool students the art and business of screen printing.

“Both Dan and Tuesday are thrilled to be able to be a part of our fundraiser and help give back to their community.” Says Milby.

When the COVID-19 crisis struck, Milby was inspired to find ways she and her family could help her local community.

“When we discovered how many food insecure families we had right here in Citrus County, we wanted to do something to help,” says Milby. “Our family recently began volunteering at the CFBCC. It has been an eye opening, humbling and wonderful experience.”

Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC, says the artistry, imagination and philanthropic spirit of the students is both impressive and inspiring.

“These students are taking time that could be spent on other activities to create, manufacture, market and sell these t-shirts to benefit those in need,” explains Sprague.  “We are so grateful for their hard work and effort. The Faith Over Fear movement has been so inspirational during the COVID-19 crisis and to those facing food insecurity. They’ve set a positive example for others to follow!”


Howard’s Flea Market donates space to help the students with this effort.  If you would like a Faith Over Fear t-shirt, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/citrusfaithoverfear to find out when and where they will be available.

West Citrus Elks Lodge 2693 Donates 590lbs. of Food to the Community Food Bank of Citrus County

The West Citrus Elks Lodge 2693 donated 590 pounds of food they recently purchased to help the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) keep the 50+ food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and ministries they serve stocked to feed those in need. The donation included high demand products such as chili, soup, beans, canned meat and pasta sauce. In addition to providing this very generous donation, the West Citrus Elks Lodge also collects food for the CFBCC throughout the year.

“The ongoing support from the West Citrus Elks Lodge has made an incredible impact over the years,” says Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC.  “This latest donation of 590 pounds of food will be distributed to local agencies and used to help feed hundreds of individuals and families.”

CFBCC Elks
Pictured from left to right: West Citrus Elks Lodge Trustee Brian Estus; Barbara Sprague, Executive Director, CFBCC; West Citrus Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Kris Estus, and Candice Lathem, Warehouse Assistant, CFBCC.

Partner

The Pregnancy and Family Life Center (PFLC) picks up food, personal care and hygiene items from the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) twice a week to help stock their pantry. The organization has been providing food, clothing, personal care items, counseling, and medical services to expectant mothers and families throughout Citrus County since 1983 and has served a record number of people so far this year:

January 2020 – July 2020

Partnering to Meet the Needs of Expectant Mothers and Families

629 Families Served

1627 Individuals Served  

28,805 Pounds of Food Distributed

15,000 Diapers Distributed

403 Packages of Baby Wipes Distributed

328 Bottles of Baby Wash Distributed

113 Cans of Baby Formula Distributed

“The partnership between the Pregnancy and Family Life Center and the Community Food Bank allows us to purchase much needed food for our families,” explains Stephanie Bell, RN, executive director of the PFLC. “We serve at risk children and families with a large majority of them being pregnant mothers. The food we provide takes some of the stress off our moms and allows them to breathe a little. We have been able to offer a large variety of food items consistently. We could not afford to do what we do without the generosity of the CFBCC and their caring and dedicated staff.”

Bell especially appreciates the fact that the team at the CFBCC is always accommodating and makes an effort to locate items she needs.

“All I have to do is ask and they find it for us,” says Bell. “We have started putting together meal kits each month incorporating items we have in our food pantry for our mothers and when I need extra food they help out. Candice (CFBCC Warehouse Assistant) always makes a point to save diapers and formula for us because she knows we have clients that are in need.”

According to Bell, individuals and families served by the PFLC are extremely grateful for the services they receive. A client who asked to remain anonymous wrote:

“The Pregnancy and Family Life Center is important to my family because they provide many helpful resources and information. They have benefitted myself and family as far as helpful videos so parents can learn new things. Also, the food and clothing is very helpful to our family. With everything going on with the virus and not working as much we have help with making sure our family has food.”

Barbara Sprague, executive director of the CFBCC, says that knowing she and her staff are making such an impact is truly a blessing.

“We do what we do because we are passionate about making sure no one in our community goes without,” explains Sprague. “We are selective about the organizations we partner with because we must be good stewards of the donations we receive.  Stephanie and her team at PFLC do exemplary work and provide much needed services to individuals and families in need.”

“The CFBCC is an organization that we rely heavily upon and they have never let us down,” says Bell. “When there’s a crisis or hurricane they’ve made sure our needs and those of our clients have been met. In addition to food, they have provided items such as diapers, makeup, toiletries, children’s books, clothing etc. All of this is passed down to our families. They are a blessing on so many levels!”

If you would like to learn more about PFLC and all of the important resources and services they provide, please visit www.pflcenter.org

Grant

The Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) received a $15,000 grant from Publix Super Market Charities which will provide 120,000 meals to individuals in need. According to Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC, the need for food assistance has increased significantly over the past several months.  This grant will allow the CFBCC to provide additional food to their 52 partnering agencies, which include food pantries, ministries, soup kitchens and shelters.


“All of our agencies have experienced tremendous spikes in need from individuals and families trying to navigate the pandemic,” says Sprague. “The $15,000 grant from the Publix Super Market Charities will provide an additional 120,000 meals to help fill the gap.”

The CFBCC is already looking at expanding their capacity to meet the ongoing and growing demand for food assistance throughout the community.

“We’ve added an additional truck to increase our reach and are facing a situation where the need will soon exceed the capacity of our current warehouse space,” explains Sprague. “We are exploring our options and any opportunities which will allow us to expand our operations and feed more people.”

“We could not do what we do without the generous support of organizations such as Publix Super Market Charities who recognize the need and then take action to help,” says Mike Orlito, Board Chair of the CFBCC.

If you would like to be part of the movement to ensure no one in our community goes hungry, please make a donation online or mail a check to Community Food Bank of Citrus County – 5259 W Cardinal Street Building B, Homosassa, FL 34446. 

If you are in need of food assistance, please click here.

Candice Lathem
Warehouse Specialist

Candice Lathem is a warehouse specialist, handling everything from sorting food and loading pallets, to helping around the office.  Candice is known around the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) for always greeting everyone with a big smile!

Candice pursued working for the CFBCC because she wanted to make a difference in the community.  She enjoys meeting people and is inspired when she comes across those who have the same heart and passion for helping others.

When Candice is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her children and hanging out near any body of water.  In fact, she loves the water so much that she has mastered the art of blowing bubbles through her ears while under water.  Hmm…maybe she missed her calling as a mermaid?

Candice loves animals and has a 12-year-old dog named Katie, three black kittens (Chewy, Pepper and Sassy Princess), a Halloween cat (Tinkerbelle) and a fat cat (Oscar the Grouch).

Thank You

Special thank you to Megan Ellis at Foley and Lardner LLP and Keith Taylor at Keith Taylor Law Group, PA for their ongoing and continued support.  They have donated countless hours to assist the Community Food Bank of Citrus County with our legal needs. We appreciate all you do!

CFBCC and SRCA
Sheila Chau (left), Principal of Solid Rock Christian Academy, receives a donation of granola bars from Barbara Sprague (right), Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Citrus County. The granola bars will help fill food closets which are maintained by teachers as a means of ensuring students in need do not go hungry while at school.

The Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) partnered with the Solid Rock Christian Academy (SRCA) to help prepare for the upcoming school year by providing several cases of granola bars to fill their food closets. Teachers at SRCA maintain these food closets to provide snacks and other food items to students in need.

According to Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC, a teacher at the SRCA contacted her to inquire about how the CFBCC may be able to assist them with ensuring each child has enough food while in their care. 

“Many of the children who attend SRCA are from low income families who live below the poverty level,” explains Sprague. “Although they are able to attend SRCA thanks to scholarship money, many of these children are food insecure.  Our partner agency, Citrus County Blessings, provides much support by providing children with weekend food.  The SRCA was in need of additional support to ensure none of the children go hungry throughout the week.”

The CFBCC acquired the granola bars from Feeding Tampa Bay and Publix.  They will be distributed for teachers to include in their food closets.

“We are able to do this thanks to the support of individuals, organizations and businesses such as Feeding Tampa Bay and Publix who generously support our mission of ending hunger and nourishing hope,” concludes Sprague.

Working Together for the Common Good

Daystar Life Center of Citrus County (Daystar) has been a partner of the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) since 2013. In fact, Daystar’s former executive director played an integral role in establishing the CFBCC. The organization’s current executive director, Anthony Kopka, and food pantry manager, Nancy Whittemore, continue to be active members of the CFBCC Advisory Council.

Daystar’s mission is to make a positive difference in people’s lives by providing immediate assistance for low income individuals and families throughout Citrus County. Some of the basic needs Daystar provides include food, clothing and assistance with paying rent and utilities. The organization also connects individuals with resources and opportunities to help improve their situations and put them on a path toward success.

The demand for food assistance continues to increase. In 2019, 340 – 420 households sought assistance from Daystar each month and the organization distributed 121,466 pounds of food to a total of 1,539 households. 

According to Kopka, the Daystar truck makes a stop at least once a week, sometimes more, to the CFBCC.  Picking up food at a central location makes it convenient for all.

“Having a centralized location of foods donated by local supermarkets – where every food pantry and feeding agency can go to share in the bounty – streamlines accessibility for us all,” explains Kopka. “It must certainly be better for the supermarkets as well.  They only need to deal with one entity instead of all 50 or more who seek grocery donations. Having a food bank for the entire county also benefits us all by having one entity represent all community pantries in order to leverage corporations, national or state agencies and regional networks for either better prices or for free foods.”

“Daystar has been with us since day one,” says Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC. “Not only do they provide much needed, comprehensive services to those in need throughout our community, but they are active in supporting and promoting what we do here at the Community Food Bank of Citrus County.”

Kopka says the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the agency because the churches, organizations, civic clubs and community groups that support Daystar have had to cancel their fundraising events.  As a result, Daystar has leaned on the CFBCC for additional assistance.

“The Community Food Bank has been especially helpful by procuring free fresh produce and other foods,” says Kopka. “We also go to the food bank every week for meat and poultry, which are difficult foods to obtain. It is also very helpful to have one hub for distribution of items needed during and after a crisis, such as bottled water after hurricanes and face masks for COVID-19.”

According to Sprague, the most successful partnerships are those where each agency works together for the common good.

“Anthony Kopka and his team are always supportive and available to help in any way they can,” explains Sprague. “We, in turn, are able to provide them with a variety of fresh, nourishing food options to distribute to the individuals and families they serve.  It’s a win-win for us all.”

“The executive director, employees and the Board of Directors of the Community Food Bank have been very accessible, responsive and helpful to the needs of Daystar Life Center, ever since the food bank was established,” concludes Kopka. “In addition to food, Daystar also provides clothing and financial aid to avert utility disconnections or to prevent evictions from rental housing for needy and low-income residents throughout Citrus County.  The food bank is like having a partner to procure food for distribution, giving Daystar staff more time to line up resources to sustain our other services that help those who are in critical need.”

If you would like to learn more about Daystar and all of the important resources and services they provide, please visit https://www.daystarcitruscounty.org/.