It’s been said and written about so many times that it risks being taken as trite. It still bears repeating.

Our little cluster of small towns spanning Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, North Port, Englewood and Venice never stops giving. Especially when the going gets tough, the whole place turns into a heaven on earth. Where do people like this come from?

For every Florida Man pulling outlandish stunts worthy of a Darwin Award, we’ve got dozens of soup-kitchen angels.

Where else do you find entrepreneurial young restaurateurs — Carmelo Mangiafico of Carmelo’s Italian Ristorante (reopening May 18, dinner only, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.), Eric Andreas of Visani Restaurant & Comedy Theater (reopened last week), and Vito Recchia of Bella Napoli (reopened last week) and Taglio Cucina & Pizzeria Romana (reopened last week) — joining forces every Saturday at one of their places, to feed hundreds of free, hot meals to unemployed hospitality workers, entertainers, barbers and beauticians?

Even the unemployed themselves — bartenders Dave “Fungus” Cabott and Michael “Lunchbox” Capner — keep feeding those who need it, Wednesdays and Sundays, from the grill in Box’s backyard, 21480 Holdern Avenue in Port Charlotte. The unexpected death of Cabott’s mother — after she told the boys how proud she was of what they were doing — led to one cancellation, but they planned to dedicate Mother’s Day to her.

While her restaurant sat idle, Jennifer Clark of Port Charlotte dished free breakfast and lunch every day for three weeks at Mean Jeanne’s Riverside Restaurant (now reopened).

Husband Robert Rance reported, “With the help of donations, Jennifer has given away hundreds of orders. People come in to get food for others in need and deliver it to them, and she has some homeless who just walk up.”

Before temporarily closing Fin Sushi & Hibachi in Port Charlotte, owner Rong Chen cleared out her larders to give food to local hospital workers. Now that she’s reopening, she plans to give 200 meals a week to first responders and hospital staff.

Business Helping Business

Small businesses have had it tough this spring, but things have been especially rough for one micro-mini: Kathy and Jeff Paradise’s Event Elements catering.

When all their events for March and April canceled, drying up their sole source of income, the couple shifted gears to once-a-week meal pickups and deliveries.

Kathy said, “We applied for help from the Charlotte County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), the SBA disaster loan and the Florida bridge loan.

“Our bank told us, ‘Be patient.’”

Then the church whose kitchen they’d been using shut down.

After the Paradises spent two income-less weeks seeking a new kitchen, Lisa Blanchard of Punta Gorda’s temporarily closed Orange House Wine Bar stepped up to offer them hers.

“Because we all went through Hurricane Charley, our community is stronger,” said Kathy. “We know, in this community, that we have to do it ourselves.”

Event Elements ($$), 941-268-5801, now at The Orange House, 320 Sullivan Street, Punta Gorda, has dinners for two at $39 and for four at $49, for pickup or delivery every Wednesday. Add a bottle of Orange House wine for $15. Menu posted on Facebook the weekend before, for orders placed by Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Where Helping Others Is A Given

Renée and Sam Petro of Port Charlotte’s Sam’s Subs and Soup are superheroes of helping.

Their café has been there for the neighborhood, first responders and countless causes ever since it opened 20 years ago.

When fire destroyed their Deep Creek home, along with two beloved dogs, in 2012, firemen and friends all pulled together to help, and Renée never forgot it.

“We are lucky people,” she said. “We have a nice house, smart kids, nice families, lots of friends and a thriving business.”

Now, while their thriving business struggles just like others, Renée has launched a new program — Buy Lunch for a Hero — which lets customers buy a meal for front-line workers.

Sam’s has since provided lunch for countless police and firefighters; Fawcett Memorial and Bayfront Health ERs, ICUs and radiology; even the Fawcett cleaning crew and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office call center.

“In these crazy times,” said Renée, “people want to know how to help. Our customers came through like champs. Just yesterday, the post office annex employees donated over $1,000 to buy food for front-line workers.”

Sam’s Subs & Soup ($), 31320 Gertrude Avenue, Port Charlotte, is open Monday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Friday to 7:30 p.m., Saturday to 3 p.m. To buy lunch for a hero — $10 for one lunch or dinner, $30 for a firehouse lunch, and $50 for a firehouse, ER or ICU dinner — use the Venmo mobile payment app or call 941-743-4649.

Rotary Stands By Charlotte

The Rotary Club of Punta Gorda, host of the annual Taste of Punta Gorda and Beyond, makes a habit of giving, too.

Most recently the club launched a program to help local restaurants through their shutdowns. They set up a special area on the club website — at — where restaurants may sell gift cards to redeem now or after shutdowns are over. Even if the cards are never redeemed, they’re gifts to the business.

Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage.


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