Neighborhood Center can use some neighborly help to feed hungry
By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DELAND - Summers are always hard on the Neighborhood Center, but this one's worse than any in memory. Requests for food have been sharply increasing, while the supply had been rapidly decreasing.
"It's the perfect storm for food," Susan Clark, executive director, said.
The center, at 434 S. Woodland Blvd., is one of West Volusia's most familiar social-services agencies. It maintains what's likely the largest food-assistance program in West Volusia. The center was recently down to about a 10-day supply of food, but has been slowly bouncing back from that brink.
Faith, Hope & Charity, the city of DeLand's not-for-profit fundraising organization, is among those helping Neighborhood Center replenish its food bank. Leigh Matusick - city commissioner and Faith, Hope & Charity board member - said the city's charity is stretched thin, but has worked with a large grocer to purchase food for the center at a discount.
The Mayor's Golf Tournament in April raised about $25,000 for Faith, Hope & Charity. The tournament is the largest fundraiser for the charity. Most of that money has been distributed as grants to other organizations, but Ms. Matusick said some is left to help the Neighborhood Center.
"We do have money (left over) from the grants this year for seed money for next year," Ms. Matusick said.
Ms. Clark said despite sincere efforts to raise food donations, the Boy Scouts' Scouting for Food in November and the National Association of Letter Carriers' Stamp Out Hunger in May weren't as successful as previous years. They center benefits from both of the food drives.
"They're our two primary food drives, and they were down notably - thousands of pounds (of food)." Ms. Clark said.
She said many who've been out of work for a year or more are reaching the end of their unemployment, savings, and friends and family they can borrow from.
"We have (50-plus) families coming in every day," she said "One day last week, we had 70. That's 70 heads of households, which is two to four per family on average."
About 20 a week, Ms. Clark said, are "new families," those who've not requested assistance before, or not for several years.
In recent weeks the Neighborhood Center has been giving out about 40 bags of food a day. They're about $5 each. The center is able to get considerable discounts on food through different programs and businesses.
The center accepts non-perishable food donations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Additionally, it accepts cash donations during those hours. Cash donations can also be done online at www.neighborhoodcenter.org.
For more information, call the center at 734-8120.
"We still have only about a 10-day supply till our next food drive," Ms. Clark said. "The community has responded wonderfully, and the gap is narrowing."