For the fifth consecutive summer, Citrus County Blessings and their dedicated volunteers have spent one evening a week in the community providing fresh fruits and vegetables for families in need.
The program runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings for nine weeks at seven locations in the county.
“The generosity of several community partners allows us to set up in areas where we know our families live. Where it is convenient for them to get to,” Blessings executive director, Christina Reed, said.
Each week the organization sends a little something extra to help with food costs or as a special treat for the kids. Included in this are peanut butter and jelly, bread, cotton candy and even goody bags in celebration of the Fourth of July.
“Seeing the kid's excitement at our locations is the heart of what we do,” Blessings program coordinator, Rachelle Garrett-Butler, said.
The summer program currently serves an average of 431 local children and adults facing food insecurity. It is available to families who are already participating in the Blessings program over the school year.
“Enrollment is required in advance, as we purchase our produce each week through the Community Food Bank of Citrus County,” Garrett-Butler said. “We are also accepting new enrollments, this is a great way to get the information to families and get them the help they need.”
Funding for programs offered by Blessings is provided by the generosity of individuals, businesses, civic groups and churches.
They also receive local grants like the Citrus County Charitable Foundation, which awarded Blessings a grant for $13,394 for their weekend meal program.
Citrus County Blessings received $1,000 through the Walmart Giving Grant, which supports local organizations through the stores that serve that area.
This donation will help Blessings to continue their mission of feeding food insecure children locally. The program depends on donations from individuals, businesses, churches, civic groups, as well as local grants to make sure no child spends a weekend hungry.
Due to COVID-19, the Citrus Hills Women’s Club’s luncheon was canceled for the second year in a row. Therefore, the board needed to be resourceful to be able to continue their philanthropy.
Members were asked to donate funds through a fundraising campaign to be used for charitable donations and scholarships, which generated several thousand dollars. For a donation to the fund at one of the drive-thru collections, members could win prizes or cash, which brought in more funds.
Some money that was budgeted for normal expenditures was not needed due to the cancellation of the luncheons, so those funds became available for philanthropic use. A total of $24,300 was raised in 2020 and 2021, at $12,000 less than the average $36,582 raised the three previous years.
This year, community and charity co-chair, Carol Peterman, volunteered to hold a “cookies & tea” event at her home to present checks totaling $9,000 to six organizations to help support their missions.
Those receiving a monetary donation from CHWC this year were the Citrus County Family Resource Center, CASA, Community Food Bank of Citrus County, Jesse’s Place, Citrus County Blessings and Voices for Children of North Central Florida Inc.
Individual containers with sensory toys and items were donated to Carter Street Head Start School for each child attending next year. Each child also received a blanket made by members of CHWC to be used when taking naps at school, which they could also take home at the end of the year. In addition, 15 students will receive a $1,000 scholarship from CHWC this year.
Members of the CHWC also collected food, clothing, diapers, laundry soap, cat and dog food and more from the three drive-thru events in 2020 and 2021. Donations were presented to the Family Resource Center, CASA, humanitarians and Carter Head Start School.
Since 1986, CHWC has awarded more than $506,000 in funds to local charities and scholarships. They are a social and charitable organization established for the purpose of making friends, sharing fun events and providing service to the community.
Membership is open to all women residents of the areas defined as the Villages of Citrus Hills. The club has a motto of “Companionship, Charity and Community.” To learn more, visit citrushillswomensclub.org.
As part of Rotary's "Motivational May" projects, the Rotary Club of Inverness helped Citrus County Blessings with their end-of-year pantry cleanout. At the end of each school year, Blessings need to have an accurate inventory of leftover products for the close of the fiscal budget as well as a thorough check of expiration dates. The Inverness Rotarians, went to 4 off-campus pantries as well as 9 on-campus sites to collect any food leftover from the 2020/2021 school year program. This enormous task also ensures that each pantry will start the next school year with a clean slate of fresh product, as well as allow for deep cleaning of all the pantry spaces. Citrus County Blessings is incredibly thankful for the help of these Rotarians and all of the hard work they put into this project.
Jack King was named Knight of the Month for April by the St. Scholastica Knights of Columbus Council 14485 in Lecanto.
Jack and his wife, Ida, moved to Citrus County from Davie, Florida, in 2003. They live in the Pine Ridge subdivision of Beverly Hills and have two daughters.
Jack has been the youth director of the council for eight years and has planned and implemented annual events at St. John Paul II Catholic School such as the soccer challenge, free throw competition, poster contest, essay contest and spelling bee.
In 2015, Jack devised and implemented the St. John Paul II Scholarship Fund with the help of Roger Preble. He has also served as chancellor of the council and chairman of the admissions committee.
Jack has utilized his wood working skills to help with council projects such as building a computer tech station at St. John Paul II Catholic School, creating a movable partition for council awards, building access ramps for disabled citizens and making two pedestals for the statues of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary for St. Scholastica Parish.
Jack has spearheaded a number of building painting projects for St. John Paul II Catholic School and Daystar Life Center. Having experience in law enforcement, Jack wrote the safety plan for St. Scholastica Church and heads up the safety team ministry. He also serves as an usher.
Jack has previously received numerous Knight of the Month and Knight of the Year awards. Jack and Ida have also received the Family of the Month and Family of the Year awards.
Jack has advanced to membership in the Patriotic Fourth Degree in the Knights of Columbus and is a member of Father James Hoge Assembly 1547 in Lecanto. He is a member of the Color Corp of the assembly.
For the past nine years, Jack has volunteered on a weekly basis, providing maintenance and other services as needed at Daystar Life Center. He also volunteers with the Citrus County Blessings when needed, delivering food and performing special projects.
Jack has a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Florida International University. He was a police officer for 33 years with the Miami-Dade Police Department, and spent 23 years as a homicide investigator.
Jack served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1970 aboard the USS Lexington, as a boiler tender. Jack enjoys woodworking, golfing, gardening and camping in his spare time.
The Democratic Women's Club of Citrus County's (DWCCC) April meeting featured Christina Reed, executive director of Citrus County Blessings, Citrus County Harvest.
In conjunction with the meeting, the club sponsored a food and funds drive for Citrus Blessings.
Due to the support of their members, they donated 125 pounds of food and $800 in monetary donations.
Citrus County Blessings, a local nonprofit dedicated to hunger relief, received a $1,500 grant through The Wawa Foundation.
Wawa staff members have been committed volunteers for Citrus County Blessings through special holiday packings, regular bag packings, and unloading food on delivery day. They also provide nonperishable food donations when available.
“We love having Wawa and the wonderful culture they bring in our community,” said Christina Reed, executive director of Blessings. “They have been so supportive with any request we have made, whether for volunteers or grant opportunities. Even before the store opened, their staff was in our pantry packing bags for our local children in need.”