Meals of Hope pro­vides hol­i­day meals and more to those in need

Cape Coral Living - - Contents -

It all be­gan as a meal-pack­ing event in Au­gust 2007, and since then Meals of Hope has packed more than 50 mil­lion meals and has be­come the big­gest food pantry in South­west Florida. The or­ga­ni­za­tion now sup­ports 11 lo­ca­tions through­out the area and con­tin­ues to ex­pand, meet­ing an ever-in­creas­ing need. “We dis­trib­ute food to more than 1,000 fam­i­lies ev­ery week, ev­ery­thing from frozen meats, to fresh pro­duce, to dry and canned goods, and even per­sonal prod­ucts like fem­i­nine hy­giene,” says Stephen Pop­per, pres­i­dent and CEO of Meals of Hope. The or­ga­ni­za­tion works with food banks, con­ducts in-store pick­ups and re­lies on much-ap­pre­ci­ated do­na­tions, which can take the form of vol­un­teer­ing at a mo­bile pantry, host­ing an event, or do­nat­ing dol­lars via the group’s web­site. The up­com­ing sixth an­nual Hol­i­days With­out Hunger will be held at two lo­ca­tions: North Naples Mid­dle School on De­cem­ber 15, and the Lee County Civic Cen­ter on De­cem­ber 22. Both will be open from 9-11 a.m. Dur­ing the fam­ily-friendly meal­pack­ing event, vol­un­teers fill bags with enough food to pro­vide six to eight meals, each meal cost­ing less than 25 cents. All bagged meals stay in the com­mu­nity. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in meal-pack­ing events is one way for friends, fam­ily, neigh­bors and mem­bers of churches, clubs, teams, busi­nesses and other groups to give back to the com­mu­nity and have a lit­tle fun in the process. FOR MORE INFO Meals of Hope 2221 Cor­po­ra­tion Blvd., Naples 239-537-7775 hol­i­dayswith­ meal­

Pops Café Serves Smiles and More Cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Cape Co­ral’s Spe­cial Pop­u­la­tions

Stop by Pops Café dur­ing break­fast and you might en­joy fresh bread or cin­na­mon rolls. Dur­ing lunch, you could chow down on a gyro or a slice of pizza. Dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, freshly baked pies of­ten ap­pear on the menu. Since open­ing in 2001 within Cape Co­ral City Hall, the cafe has served break­fast and lunch Mon­day through Fri­day from 7:30 a.m. un­til 1:00 p.m. Pops man­ager Michelle Lussier works with both staff mem­bers and par­tic­i­pants from the City of Cape Co­ral’s Spe­cial Pop­u­la­tions pro­gram for in­di­vid­u­als with in­tel­lec­tual/ devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. The Spe­cial Pop­u­la­tions work­ers must com­plete Florida’s ServSafe pro­gram to learn ba­sic kitchen safety. They help with food prepa­ra­tion, wash­ing dishes, clean­ing, tak­ing or­ders, cashier­ing and serv­ing cus­tomers. Four of them work the café each day, along with a coach, as they ro­tate through dif­fer­ent po­si­tions at city hall to learn a va­ri­ety of jobs. The Spe­cial Pop­u­la­tions/Pops Café pro­gram is run by the City of Cape Co­ral Parks and Re­cre­ation De­part­ment. It of­fers an “ex­cep­tional op­por­tu­nity for par­tic­i­pants to de­velop, en­hance and/or main­tain life and job skills to use in ev­ery­day life,” says Kerry Run­yon, Cape Co­ral Parks and Re­cre­ation di­rec­tor. “This pro­gram is a unique part of our de­part­ment, and we are proud to make such op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able for spe­cial in­di­vid­u­als within our com­mu­nity.” Among Pops Café’s no­table items are the home­made white bread and chicken salad. “The na­cho supreme on our spe­cials menu is also very pop­u­lar,” says Lussier, who has worked at the café since 2015. Lussier in­vites lo­cal chefs to vol­un­teer at the café for a day. “We’d love them to come see what we do and show­case their restau­rants,” adds Lussier, who, along with her hus­band, Christo­pher, owned sev­eral restau­rants in Fort My­ers for about 12 years, in­clud­ing Edi­son Lunch Box, Sec­ond Street Deli and Ci­mini’s Ital­ian Restau­rant. IF YOU GO Pops Café 1015 Cul­tural Park Blvd., Cape Co­ral 239-573-3134 capec­o­­part­ment/parks_ and_recre­ation­home/pop­s_­cafe.php

Ann Marie O’Phe­lan is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

Meals of Hope holds sev­eral food­pack­ing events through­out the year.

The City of Cape Co­ral’s Spe­cial Pop­u­la­tions pro­gram helps staff the kitchen at Pops Café.

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