FORT MYERS, Fla. – A local soup kitchen is closing its doors. Nations Association Charities has been in operation since 1978. Now the guy who started it all, is redirecting his focus to children in the community.
“I always thought I was a tough kid and I could take on anything by myself,” said Ezequiel Beltran, a youth program volunteer at Nations Association Charities.
Ezequiel Beltran once told his mom he wanted to join a gang.
“It was like the dumbest thing, you know people die from it and I wanted to be that.”
He wanted to have friends who had his back. He soon found the opposite of what he was looking for would be exactly what he needed. He started getting involved in youth programs at the Nations Association.
The association also operates a soup kitchen that is now closing. Director Reverend Israel Suarez says it’s to focus more on kids in need.
“Kids that might be a trouble, kids, but they have a good heart and they need somebody that can help them,” Suarez said.
He says there are too many soup kitchens, and people are depending on them more than they should. So Suarez said they’re going to invest more in the kids again.
Suarez showed WINK News his plans for the former soup kitchen; he wants to transform the area into a place for kids to play, complete with a basketball court.
Those who benefit from the program now say it’s more than the average after school program; it’s a family.
“Realizing it now, yeah I needed help back then and drug stop helped me out,” Beltran said.
“This program,” said Estella McDaniel, a youth program volunteer, “it brings different people together it makes it into a bigger family that is supposed to be.”
The only problem is Suarez doesn’t have the money to transform this area into a playground for the kids. He’s hoping someone in the community could help him much like he has helped others.