NAPLES, Fla. — Tony Mansolillo wanted to help people affected by COVID-19 when the pandemic began in March of 2020. That's how his charity, Feed Thy Neighbor, was born.
What started as a few meals for a handful of people has blossomed into a full-time job for Mansolillo and a crew of volunteers. Feed Thy Neighbor now makes around 450 meals a day and hand delivers them to homeless and underprivileged people all over Collier County.
Mansolillo likes to deliver the meals directly to people on the street because he realizes many people who need food don't have the means to get to a food bank or homeless shelter.
"We deliver to the people who don't have the ability to get anywhere, who don't have a regular address," Mansolillo said. "I go into the field and find these people.
"They're just like me or you, but somehow they slipped through the cracks. I think we let them down, so I'm helping them up."
Mansolillo started cooking meals at his home in North Naples. Once demand increased, he started buying more kitchen equipment — five stoves and two double ovens, plus endless amounts of cookware.
When his home owner's association told Mansolillo he couldn't run the charity from his residence, Feed Thy Neighbor found a new home. St. Monica's Episcopal Church, just down the road from Mansolillo's house, offered the charity its kitchen to use.
“They’re feeding people who are hungry — and not just giving them some carrots and cereal," said Father Jonathan Evans, rector at St. Monica's. "They’re giving them a warm, home-cooked meal. There’s no bigger statement of love than that.”
Mansolillo and four to five volunteers begin cooking at 9 a.m. every weekday. They're done around 3:30 p.m. Then everyone loads up their cars and starts delivering to anyone they can find who needs a meal. Typically delivery doesn't end until after 9 p.m.
A 76-year-old disabled veteran, Mansolillo said he's thrilled with how much Feed Thy Neighbor has grown in less than two years. But he hopes to more. That includes a toy drive he's conducting this Christmas.
“My opinion is, I feed everybody ‘cause God don’t make no junk," Mansolillo said. "They were made by God and so was I, and I have no more right to the food on this Earth than they do. I’m just trying to get them what’s theirs.”