ENGLEWOOD — On Thursday, a woman called Englewood Helping Hand, saying she had the coronavirus and was in dire need of food.

Martha Martin, Helping Hand’s operations manager, told her a volunteer would bring food to the car.

“The woman opened her trunk and the volunteer loaded it,” Martin said. “The woman never got out of the car. We were happy she got the food she needed.”

Martin said while it was the first case of coronavirus the nonprofit Helping Hand encountered, it likely won’t be the last. The patient was from the Charlotte County side of Englewood. Helping Hand, 700 E. Dearborn St., gives food and other social services to all residents in Englewood.

“I don’t think anyone will lie about having the virus and needing food,” Martin said. “We will not turn people away. We will be cautious, but we intend on helping people. God knows who those people are and we follow his word.”

Martin anticipates a double whammy in the next couple of weeks with parents looking for food for their children during spring break and a more intense focus on the coronavirus.

“Our shelves are getting bare,” she said. “We usually have a good amount of food donations during the seasonal months. But we’ve seen an increase in the need so the food is leaving our shelves quickly. We know we will get more during the annual Postal Carrier Canned Food Drive, but that’s not until mid-May.”

At nearby St. David’s Jubilee Center, 401 S. Broadway St. in Englewood, there is food available for those in need.

“We benefited from the recent Feed the Harbor food drive and now we have food for a while,” said Ruth Hill, manager of the Jubilee Center, which also helps homeless campers. “We are seeing an increase. Last year our backpack program helped 70 children each week. Now we are doing 134 bags for kids. We don’t want anyone to go hungry.”

In North Port

On Friday at God’s Helping Hands Outreach at New Hope Church, 5600 S. Biscayne Drive, volunteers helped give out 1,000 pounds of meat, 6,000 pounds of apples, 2,600 pounds of milk, 2,000 pounds of oranges, 1,600 pounds of eggs, 2,200 pounds of tomatoes and 1,200 pounds of assorted produce.

The food pantry is open 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Friday. The line forms at 1 p.m. and wraps around the church as the pantry helps families supplement their food needs to pay other bills.

“Yes, we are very busy and I expect the next month to be even busier,” Grant said. “We are taking increased precautions and do not plan on closing due to the coronavirus. There are people in need and we aren’t going to turn our back on them, especially with the increased number of clients we are seeing this month.”

Grant said the pantry needs volunteers and donations. Grant is also looking for other fundraiser ideas, but needs help.

“I hate asking for money through fundraising, but we have to now; the need is great,” he said. “We are trying to buy food from All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota, but we only have money for delivery fees for free food items that come to the church. If we can buy food, we will have specific items for those who have diabetes or other food allergies who are in need or are sick.”

To volunteer or donate food or clothing, call Larry Grant at 941-549-3902. Checks can be made out to New Hope Community Church. Write food pantry in the memo line. Checks can be sent to 5600 S. Biscayne Drive, North Port, FL 34287.


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