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Center to host giveaway for low-income families today

PALMETTO — Inside the tiny entryway to the Mount Carmel Community Resource Center, bagged bread loaves lay stockpiled on a loveseat.

In the adjacent cramped kitchen, doughnut holes, cupcakes and pastries crammed an island counter.

In the next room, hundreds of brown paper bags were stacked side by side, stuffed with canned goods, beans and pasta.

At least 200 low-income families are expected to enter the doors to the center this morning at 1314 Second Ave. W. for a holiday food and gift giveaway.

The event runs from 10 a.m.- noon and is sponsored by Mayors’ Feed The Hungry, a coalition of charitable groups, service agencies and religious institutions like Mount Carmel.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, along with members from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency and commission, will be on hand to distribute more than 200 bags of food and food gift cards. They’ll also give away 80 turkeys.

“A lot of people aren’t aware how beneficial they are in this area,” said program Director Shirley Pearson as she buzzed from room to room early Monday morning, helping volunteers like Joyce Dukes stuff the brown paper bags with food.

“Whew! I’ve only gotten through a couple of bags and my arms are already tired,” Dukes said, smiling. “But I’m doing this because God told us to.”

Since its inception in 1987, the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry program has donated more than $2 million in food gift cards and tons of food to member organizations for their food pantries.

Much of the food at the center Monday came thanks to help from Manatee and Sarasota schools. Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee and the American Legion Post 309 in Palmetto also contributed.

Across the street from the one-story block house that serves as the center is the Mount Carmel Baptist Church, which started the center about three years ago. Inside, church member Gwen Newsome organized hundreds of toys Monday.

From transformers and dolls to stuffed animals and board games, Newsome divided toys into two groups: those for boys and those for girls.

The gifts, provided by the Manatee Fraternal Order of Police, also will be distributed today.

“There’s something talking in this bag,” said Pearson, who had made her way across the street by mid-morning. She and Newsome giggled as the toy doll continue to talk.

Feeding hungry mouths at the center isn’t something only done this time of year. During a Thanksgiving food drive last month, they gave out food to 142 families. To be eligible, families must meet annual income requirements.

The center’s benevolence takes place each day.

On Monday’s chilly morning, a thin man, wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and flip flops, briskly walked inside the center’s side door.

Seconds later, he exited with a sandwich and a soda in hand. Before he reached the end of the center’s driveway, he had devoured most of the sandwich.

Like many others, Pearson said, the hungry man will return.

Maybe even today.

“And, thanks to the community, the food will be here,” Pearson said.

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