I’m really amazed,” said Gulfport City Councilmember Yolanda Roman on Thursday, December 15 as she picked up enough food at Winn Dixie in nearby South Pasadena to create 100 balanced holiday meal gift bags for people registered for the Gulfport Senior Center’s food pantry program.
The free meals were more than paid for by donations made during the 8th annual Holiday Hoopla event held Saturday, December 10 in the city.
Roman and others planned for a total of 10 to 20 donations of $10 per person for each meal bag, but more than 150 total people contributed. Additional people contributed from $1 to $5. More than $1,500 was raised for the charity effort.
“You would assume 100 meals means $1,000 but because of Winn Dixie having sales and specials, the bill came out to a total of $744,” said Roman.
“It’s a lot of food. It’s crazy,” said Jakayla Clark-Lawson, a bagger at Winn Dixie who packed up multiple grocery carts of meats and fish proteins, vegetables, instant potatoes, corn muffin and dessert products.
Each senior picking up a holiday meal will also receive a card signed by a donor.
“A lot of our seniors live home alone and to open a card and see a message written by somebody they don’t even know, it just brings a little bit of extra special holiday joy,” said Roman.
Donors included people from as far away as Amsterdam, Netherlands and Canada. The remaining donated funds will be used in early 2017 to purchase additional non-perishable food for seniors along with personal hygiene items for such as soaps, toothbrushes and razor blades, said Roman.
John Johnson, assistant store manager for Winn Dixie said it took three employees to select all of the food items from the aisles.
“It’s definitely the longest receipt I’ve ever had by far,” said checkout person Kelli Christensen. Store employees Jennifer Bourdeau and Bernice Bentley along with Manager Glenn Blickenstaff also helped with the effort.
For information on how to qualify for and obtain the balanced holiday meals, call 727-893-1231 beginning Monday, December 19.