The Faces of Hunger

By Barbara Sprague
Executive Director

Food banks often only work behind the scenes to ensure those agencies who serve the public directly are well supplied with nutritious foods. Much like a distribution center for a supermarket, we deal with semi-truck loads of food by the pallet, but rarely do we have an opportunity to meet the thousands of neighbors in need that we ultimately serve.

Until Michael called. Living many states away and with a growing concern for his sister who lives locally, Michael phoned the area food bank for some guidance and happened to connect to me. As we spoke, I learned that his sister Ruth has suffered through a terrible marriage full of domestic violence. With a divorce, no financial support, a home to care for and a severe depression setting in, Ruth had become distant, withdrawn, unable to eat and on the verge of becoming homeless. Poor Michael was beside himself as the COVID-19 pandemic had closed him off from any opportunity to visit her and care for his stricken sister.

Although we deal with pallets and pounds, we are also here to provide to those in need and Ruth was certainly no exception. I explained to Michael how our network of pantries, soup kitchens and shelters function on the front line while we help to flow food in mass amounts through them. With the pandemic spiking needy clients by 300-400% and Ruth’s fragile state, I knew an emergency intervention was needed. Armed with a box of assorted fruit, vegetables, prepared meals and a salvaged bouquet of flowers, I took down her address and headed to see Ruth.

Tucked away on a quiet street in a lovely subdivision was a forlorn house. Ruth took a few minutes to answer, but eventually opened the door and graciously accepted my box of food. As we chatted, I encouraged Ruth to partake of the list of our agencies who locally distribute food and other assistance. She explained that she had started to investigate some programs to help her get back on her feet, but the tags on her car had expired, she had run out of money, had no source of income and was pretty frankly embarrassed by the path life had taken her on. She felt so ashamed she couldn’t face her family, friends or even neighbors.

It struck me hard that this lovely lady had weathered a storm but was left so beaten down that her body had recovered, but her spirit just couldn’t. I knew our agencies and believed wholeheartedly that one of them would embrace Ruth and be able to offer much more than a meal.

“Of course I will! I’ll go over and see her today.” Ms. Lorraine Adams manages the food pantry and Celebrate Recovery meals for the Lifetree Center, but also has the compassion and strength to be a solid shoulder for those in need of emotional support. I had a feeling she was just the right person Ruth needed in her life.

Just an hour later Lorraine checked back in with me. “She was apprehensive, but we chatted and made a date to go to lunch.” What? My heart sang! Lorraine made several more visits and quickly convinced Ruth to step back into the world with her right by her side. “I’ve got this,” she told me. Ruth has been through an awful lot, but these are exactly the people we want to reach and help.

The good reports kept coming. With Lorraine’s help, Ruth has started taking care of herself, has gotten her car back on the road, has started applying for jobs and is planning her future with the possibility of roommates, “like the Golden Girls”. This is what a community support system is all about. Organizations connecting each other to the people who truly need them so that our community prospers person, by person.

“We can’t thank you enough for everything you have done to help our family,” said Michael. I told him how much I appreciated his kind words, but that it was not only my pleasure to help make connections for Ruth, but the reason why we exist. We do not just feed to end hunger, but we nourish hope as well.

$50,000 Challenge Match Met and Exceeded

Community Food Bank of Citrus County Continues to Raise Funds to Provide Food Assistance During COVID-19 Crisis

In May 2020, Suncoast Credit Union donated $50,000 toward the Community Food Bank of Citrus County’s (CFBCC) COVID-19 relief efforts and encouraged the community to match their donation. The numbers are in and we are proud to announce that the match challenge raised a total of $182,786.

The challenge was exceeded thanks to an anonymous $50,000 donor and numerous other individuals who stepped up to the plate to make contributions.

“Since COVID-19, the need for food assistance has significantly escalated,” explains Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of CFBCC. “The CFBCC is so grateful to everyone in the community who has come together to help us help families in need.  We could not do what we do without the support of corporate and individual donors and volunteers who continue to help us fulfill our mission.”

The original $50,000 from Suncoast Credit Union provided 400,000 meals.  The matching contributions provided an additional 1,062,288 meals.  In total, the campaign initiated by Suncoast Credit Union allowed the CFBCC to provide 1,462,288 meals to local families in need.

According to Sprague, prior to COVID-19, the CFBCC distributed food to provide meals to approximately 17,000 people each month through 52 partnering agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, ministries, etc.) Since the onset of COVID-19, that number has increased to more than 50,000 people being served each month.

“I’ve served on the Board of Directors for the CFBCC for seven years and we have never faced such a sharp increase in demand for food,” says Mike Orlito, Board Chair. “We have been able to meet that demand thanks to the support and generosity of the community.”

If you would like to help the CFBCC continue to meet the growing need for food assistance, please click here to donate online or mail a check to Community Food Bank of Citrus County – 5259 W Cardinal Street Building B, Homosassa, FL 34446. 

Meet Bethany!

Bethany Wilcox

Warehouse Food Sorter

Bethany Wilcox has been volunteering at the Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) for more than a year.  Bethany serves as a warehouse food sorter, helping make sure the food is prepped and ready to distribute to the 53 food pantries, ministries, shelters and soup kitchens we serve.

When she is not volunteering at the CFBCC, Bethany takes classes online and loves to draw and read in her spare time.  One interesting fact about Bethany is that she has actually been bitten by a snake!  Fortunately, that has not kept her from adopting several unique and interesting pets.  She has a dog named Jasper, a beta fish and four lizards – Berry (a bearded dragon), Killer (a tokay gecko), and Curry and Squirt (leopard geckos.)

Bethany loves what she does and is passionate about helping the community.  We are fortunate to have such a dedicated young volunteer committed to helping us fulfill our mission.  Thank you, Bethany!

The Bad Golfers Association (BGA) of Citrus Hills recently held a charity golf tournament and raised $2331 to benefit the Community Food Bank of Citrus County. The BGA consists of approximately 40 golfers who get together twice a week and enjoy a round of golf and fellowship. This “Bad But Proud” group was founded by avid golfers whose love for the game far exceeds their ability to play it, and they aren’t afraid to admit it!

“We realize that there is a real need for families that are unemployed to feed their families. Without your help there would be many families in Citrus County who would go hungry. Our members recognize the good work you and your volunteers do for so many in need. Thank you for all you do.” Len Ciriello, BGA

Special thank you to the BGA for their generous support.  We could not do what we do without you!

We are proud to announce that the Community Food Bank of Citrus County was selected to receive a COVID-19 Relief Grant in the amount of $5,000 from the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund. These funds will help us meet the increasing local need as a result of COVID-19. We are committed to keeping the 53 food pantries, shelters, ministries and soup kitchens we serve stocked as more and more families seek food assistance.

We would like to extend a special “thank you” to the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund for your generous support in helping us continue to fulfill our mission of ending hunger and nourishing hope!

Kiwanis Club of Inverness Donates $5000
Bart Bennett of the Kiwanis Club of Inverness presents Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of CFBOCC, with a $5000 donation.

We would like to extend a great big THANK YOU to the Kiwanis Club of Inverness for your generous donation of $5000! These funds will help us supply 40,000 meals distributed through our 53 agency partners which include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and ministries.

There has been a sharp increase in individuals seeking food services due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Community Food Bank of Citrus County is committed to keeping our agencies fully stocked so they can serve those in need. We are only able to do this thanks to the generous support of organizations like the Kiwanis Club of Inverness. THANK YOU!

400meals

We’re excited to announce that Suncoast Credit Union has donated $50,000 toward the Community Food Bank of Citrus County’s (CFBCC) COVID-19 relief efforts.  This donation will allow us to provide 400,000 meals through our partnering agencies.

We are challenging the community to help us match this donation!  Between now and June 15th, we will be collecting matching funds in an effort to double the impact by providing a total of 800,000 meals!

Please pass this challenge on to your family and friends. Every little bit helps!

Or, mail your donation to:
Community Food Bank of Citrus County
5259 W Cardinal Street Building B
Homosassa, FL 34446

Thank you for your generous and continued support!

Suncoast Credit Union Donates $50,000, Encourages Match to Help Meet Increased Need

Suncoast Credit Union has donated $50,000 toward the Community Food Bank of Citrus County’s (CFBCC) COVID-19 relief efforts.  Suncoast Credit Union is supporting the communities it serves by donating a total of $1 million toward economic relief.

“Before COVID-19, we were providing meals to approximately 17,000 people each month.  That number has sharply increased to more than 41,000/month,” says Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC. “The only reason we are able to meet the growing needs of our community is because of the generosity of individuals and businesses such as the Suncoast Credit Union who have stepped up to the plate during this unprecedented time.”

Donations to the CFBCC help the organization continue to source food, pick it up daily and prepare it for distribution to 53 food agencies that serve those in need throughout Citrus County. The CFBCC is distributing tens of thousands of pounds of food per week throughout the local area.

“While we are focused on supporting our members financially, we feel a moral obligation to support other basic needs during this very challenging time. We admire and are inspired by other charitable organizations who are providing relief through private donations like ours,” said Suncoast Credit Union President & CEO Kevin Johnson. “People are struggling through no fault of their own and because of the support of our Board of Directors, Suncoast is committed to doing what we can to address these serious needs.”

“We are extremely grateful that Suncoast Credit Union has put their trust and confidence in the Community Food Bank of Citrus County,” says Mike Orlito, Board Chair of CFBCC. “This $50,000 donation will provide 400,000 meals.”

The CFBCC is challenging the community to match this generous donation.  If you would like to be part of this match to help the organization continue to meet the growing needs of the community, please visit www.feedcitrus.org or mail a check to Community Food Bank of Citrus County – 5259 W Cardinal Street Building B, Homosassa, FL 34446.

Community Food Bank of Citrus County, Feeding Tampa Bay Responding to Local Needs

First time users of food pantries and other community resources continues to steadily increase as people are furloughed or laid off from their jobs. The Community Food Bank of Citrus County (CFBCC) is ensuring the 50+ local food agencies served are fully stocked thanks to both individual and corporate donations as well as its partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay/Feeding America.

The CFBCC is sourcing food and picking it up daily. It is then sorted and packed for same or next day delivery to 53 agencies that serve those in need throughout Citrus County. Feeding Tampa Bay, a long-time partner of the CFBCC, is providing Citrus County with tens of thousands of pounds of food per week.

“The Community Food Bank of Citrus County is Feeding Tampa Bay’s largest partner in Citrus County and a fantastic one at that,” explains Rhonda Gindlesperger, Chief Operating Officer for Feeding Tampa Bay. “Through our partnership we are able to get more food to Citrus County agencies and residents in need than either of us could do alone. The Community Food Bank of Citrus County has been working hard to route trucks to Tampa for additional product pick up and we are also working to send trucks up to them as well. Working together has never been more critical as we find solutions for the evolving and increasing needs of our communities during this current crisis.”

“We are especially grateful to Feeding Tampa Bay as their support has played an integral role in helping us serve the needs of our community,” says Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFBCC.

CFBCC Board Chair Mike Orlito states, “The need is only going to intensify. None of us really know what is coming down the pike. We’re preparing ourselves for sharp and long-term increases in people needing help.”

Those in need of food assistance can click here to locate a nearby food agency.

The CFBCC is in need of ongoing financial support to continue meeting the growing needs of the community. If you are able to donate, please click here or mail a check to Community Food Bank of Citrus County – 5259 W Cardinal Street Building B, Homosassa, FL 34446.

Thank you

We are continuing to extend our heartfelt thank you to all of the individuals, organizations and businesses that are supporting the Community Food Bank of Citrus County during the COVID-19 crisis.

Judi McEnvoy, President of the Gulf to Lakes Pilot Club of Citrus County, stopped by our office to drop off $650 in Walmart gift cards to help us meet the needs of the community. Thank you for helping us keep the 53 food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens we serve stocked as the demand for food grows!