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Groups promote Thanksgiving meal giveaways for Ian recovery

Traditional Thanksgiving food is the order of the day for some charitable groups in Southwest Florida.   They're collecting items for meal box giveaways in the middle of Hurricane Ian recovery.
Submitted
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Special to WGCU
Traditional Thanksgiving food is the order of the day for some charitable groups in Southwest Florida. They're collecting items for meal box giveaways in the middle of Hurricane Ian recovery.

Some charitable groups in Southwest Florida are getting donations for Thanksgiving meal giveaways in the middle of recovery from Hurricane Ian devastation. Some see it as a way to take joy in the holiday, while others dealing with severe damage or destruction from Ian say they're having trouble getting into a holiday mood.

Community Cooperative is taking in or buying 3,500 turkeys and all the trimmings by November 18. Chief Executive Officer Stefanie Edwards calls it the Full Plate Project.

"I really feel that gathering around the table and celebrating with loved ones is more important now than ever," Edwards said.

Members of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee County are giving out 300 boxes of Thanksgiving meals on Saturday, November 19. The food comes from the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers. The club members will distribute the meal boxes at Park Meadows Community Center in Fort Myers. They're doing so in part to celebrate Park Meadows as the new location of the clubs in Lee County. It's the first time the clubs have organized a Thanksgiving meal giveaway. The food will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lee resident Bruce Myers welcomes this tradition.

"I think it's wonderful for these groups to step forward and help," Myers said. "There are a lot of people who need a lot of help. We have a lot to be thankful for. God blesses you even in tragedy."

Reverend Israel Suarez's new organization, the Hispanic-American Citizens Council, will give meals to 50 needy families, already selected. Those will be uncooked meal boxes. Next week Suarez plans to bring 50 cooked family meals to a badly-damaged trailer park in North Fort Myers.

"I think it's wonderful for these groups to step forward and help. There are a lot of people who need a lot of help. We have a lot to be thankful for. God blesses you even in tragedy."
Lee County resident Bruce Myers

Otherwise he said he is focused on fixing damaged mobile homes, and he said he believes the rest of us should be too.

"Right now a turkey is good, but a place to stay is better," Suarez said. "Give the blessing of Thanksgiving: rebuilding that facility where they live."

Teri Lamb of Cape Coral said she appreciates the meal offers, but had some additional comments.

"It's a band-aid on a big problem," Lamb said. "I think it's mixed emotions. You see your whole life out on the curb." At that point while referring to her sister's furniture and belongings waiting for debris pickup, Lamb had to choke back sobs and compose herself. "I'm sure a turkey will give some people hope. But it's not the whole deal," she said.

Lamb's sister, Candi Kavouras, said she can't feel joy in holiday cooking because Ian destroyed her belongings and flooded her home in North Fort Myers.

"It's just been gutted," she said. "So who wants to cook in a house that's been destroyed inside?"

It's a valid point, according to Stefanie Edwards of Community Cooperative. So her organization plans to bring cooked meals to Fort Myers Beach before Thanksgiving. The barrier island went under 12 to 18 feet of water in the hurricane, and the damage is catastrophic in many parts of the town. Edwards said she sees this holiday as another chance to help those in need.

"I've seen such good people step up to help their neighbors as we recover," Edwards said.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.

Forty-one-year veteran of television news in markets around the country, including more than 18 years as an anchor and reporter at WINK-TV in southwest Florida.