CLEARWATER, Fla. - After witnessing a local restaurant toss a mountain of food in the trash, a Pinellas County couple was inspired to turn that waste into a way to help those in need. The effort has blossomed during a time when more people could use an extra meal.
Six days a week, volunteers hand out food to the homeless in a Clearwater parking lot.
"We normally have between 50 and 120 people," said T.C. Campisi.
Folks line up for a hot meal, a sweet treat, or some prepared foods to take with them. The daily menus made possible by a team of volunteers who partner with area organizations
"Come in at the end of each day and take what is unsold items, so we do that with local businesses, restaurants, convenience stores places like that with things that would be turning out at the end of the day," explained Heather Brooke.
Heather Brooke passes out food daily in Clearwater
Fighting hunger and reaching those who feel forgotten is a passion Heather and her husband, Tim, stumbled into right at the start of the pandemic, after seeing a local restaurant throwing away perfectly good food.
"It started with just a few pickups, just a few things here and there, it was actually bagels," Heather said. "And we started to accumulate more and more, we got some friends and asked them to help because we couldn’t be at too many places at the same time."
Over the last nine-months, that effort has exploded to include about 60-volunteers, with more than 650 pick-ups coordinated each month from businesses and fresh food donors. It is mainly in Pinellas County but stretches into Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.
"It’s a ton of food, literally," laughed Heather.
All of that nutrition is handed out to families, the elderly, the underprivileged, shared with local food pantries, and homeless giveaways.
"I don’t care if they’re doing drugs, or they drink alcohol, or whatever thing that they’ve done wrong in their life, I’m just here to make sure that they’re eating, because no matter what somebody’s done I wouldn’t want them to starve to death," said T.C.
The operation is currently functioning out of ten refrigerators stuffed into Heather’s garage. The organization still needs a name, but even more, it needs a better place to operate and transition into a full-blown nonprofit
"Now it has grown so great, we have so much food, so much food is coming and going, so many volunteers and we are at the point now where we need to expand," said Heather.
To help make that a reality, Heather is raising money online, hoping to rent a location. If you want to help visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-new-space-for-christmas-fighting-hunger-in-fl.