“It’s a wonderful collaboration.”

That’s how Joe Sabatino explained the Farm to Families food distribution event on Thursday morning at Franz Ross Park in Port Charlotte.

Sabatino served as the chairperson for the COAD food distribution program.

A partnership between St. Vincent de Paul, area Lions Clubs, GA Foods, Harry Chapin Food Bank and Cheney Brothers made the event possible.

More than 40 volunteers distributed 1,344 boxes of refrigerated food and 420 boxes of non-perishables to local food banks and families in less than two hours. The parking lot was set up strategically so that five cars could receive food from five different staging areas at the same time.

“We worked on the logistics for weeks,” Sabatino said as he directed volunteers to move pallets of food. “We made sure the local food pantries received their boxes first, and then we served the families.”

Cars were lined up to Veteran’s Boulevard to receive the free food.

Florence Bordes, a volunteer from the St. Vincent de Paul, spent the morning directing vehicles through two drive-thru lanes.

“So many people are in need of help right now, it just breaks my heart,” Bordes said. “I want to do my part to help in any way I can ... it’s so humbling.”

This was the second distribution event the group has organized since July.


Richard Collins, one of the organizers, said without the cooperation of all of the participants, the day wouldn’t have been so successful.

“This was originally supposed to be a Lions project but they did not get the contract with USDA, until another Lion’s member and with the resourcefulness of Joe Sabatino, we hooked up with GA Foods, who has a contract with USDA,” Collins said.

Sabatino said he was very grateful to all who were involved.

“It’s so wonderful to see firsthand as the entire giving community of Charlotte County comes to together to serve those most in need.”

The group’s first distribution event took place in July, and the food was gone within 45 minutes.

Chip Kunka, district governor for the Lions of Southwest Florida, said about 30 volunteers from nine area Lions organizations helped out at the event.

“We are a very caring group,” said Kathy Lawless, president of the Englewood Lions Club, as she handed out bottles of water to volunteers. “If somebody needs something, we are there to help.”

The Community Organizations Active in Disaster consists of faith-based entities, nonprofits, volunteer groups and government agencies with the goal of expediting information and assistance between all partnering agencies and has been active since March to aid those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, visit www.COADFL.org.

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