During Thanksgiving, Higher Impact Ministries, of Auburndale, has been feeding the community for 17 years.
Its focus is helping local migrants, farmworkers, the homeless and Meals on Wheels. This year, they have been collecting non-perishable food items and packed 200 boxes each feeding a family of four.
Sandra Hall, executive director of the Auburndale Chamber of Commerce, headed up the efforts.
“We had to think outside the box and be creative in how to get them fed,” she explained.
Last year, instead of delivering freshly cooked meals on Thanksgiving, they began gathering food items to hand out to the community due to COVID-19.
“In the past, we fed more than 5,000 people and delivered all over the county.”
Hall wanted to be sure the hungry were still fed during the week of Thanksgiving.
“Now they will have even more food,” she said.
Items like pancake mixes, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, tuna, rice, canned chicken, canned vegetables, cereal, Little Debbie snacks and instant potatoes were picked up by families Tuesday, Nov. 23, at Eloise Resource Center in Winter Haven.
“Just one can of veggies can make a difference,” she said.
“It seems to be working,” Hall said. “The kids are out of school all week. They aren’t just hungry on Thanksgiving Day. We really wanted to help these families who are struggling.”
Hall started a Facebook group: 2021 Community Thanksgiving Outreach to ask for volunteers. They have about 700 people that have joined the group.
“Don’t get in your comfort zone,” she said. “We need to reach out. It takes us all.” Her motto: “When we all do a little, we accomplish a lot.”
When Sharon Hood delivered her first hot meal 16 years ago, she was hooked. And she feels the ministry is still meeting people’s needs even if it is being done a little differently. They made sure they called families that they helped last year so they knew they could come and still get food.
The retired media specialist from Jere Stambaugh Middle School said there are always new people to help.
“It’s neat how the Lord has opened doors and the timing has been impeccable,” she said. “My husband and I have been blessed too much not to give back. Even if it is just once a year, we have a comradery with people in the community.”
When she delivered the hot meals for many years, it broke her heart a bit when seeing those who are in need. From the migrant camps to seniors who can’t leave their homes, there are so many out there who need food.
“We are reaching as many people as possible, just in a different way,” Hood said. “The Bible says to reach out.”
Hall said many people focus on donating food at Christmas, so she wanted to focus on a different holiday. “This is my heart,” she said. “I want to make a difference… whatever it takes.”
Monetary donations to help purchase food for next year can be sent to:
Higher Impact Ministries
PO Box 2182
Auburndale, FL 33823