Harry Chapin volunteers share experiences at the food pantry

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Volunteers at the Harry Chapin Food Bank work hard every day to make sure nobody in Southwest Florida goes hungry — no matter their situation. Volunteers at the food bank have emotional experiences while they work with recipients at the mobile pantry. They all have their own personal reasons for volunteering their time at the pantry.

Every Wednesday morning, kids and families who face food insecurity wait outside the Gladiolus food pantry in south Fort Myers.

“You’d think in America, why would people be hungry?” Volunteer Pat Knepler said. “But, yep, they’re our people here, right here in our community.”

The day starts when a truck from HCFB pulls up. Volunteers help load boxes of food into the pantry to stock the shelves.

“Everybody pitches in,” Tony Cicerello said. “There’s a lot more that goes on here.”

Cicerello is a four-year volunteer at the pantry.

“Once I run out of steam or muscles, I’ll stop,” Cicerello said. “But I go along pretty good.”

That’s good enough for Cicerello to help mothers like Michele Ousley get the food she needs to feed her family.

“My ACL is sprained, so I’m out of work for that,” Ousley said.

Every volunteer shops with a family, and they select what they can use and put it in the cart.”

“We need a lot of help here,” Ousley said. “People don’t realize that.”

Regular volunteers like Knepler see the food insecurity their recipients have first-hand.

“The little girl grabbed an apple, and she ran into a corner and she ate this apple,” Knepler said. “I do get choked up. She ate the apple, everything, seeds, everything. And the mother says, ‘I am so sorry; we haven’t eaten in two days; my daughter is so hungry; and when she saw the food, she couldn’t stop herself.’”

WINK News continues to support the mission of Harry Chapin Food Bank.

The WINK Feed Families Hunger Walk is two days away. The 2-mile walk is Saturday at Miromar Outlets. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 9 a.m. The event has raised more than $191,000 for the cause.

For sign-up information for the walk or to make a donation visit WINKHungerWalk.com

For some like Cicerello, the reason to continue volunteering toward the HCFB mission is personal.

“I know what it’s like to be hungry,” Cicerello said.

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