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St. Matthew's House feeding record number of families

Posted at 8:02 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 20:09:02-04

NAPLES, Fla. — As unemployment numbers reach record highs across the country, many are turning to food banks for help.

Here in Southwest Florida, St. Matthew's House in Naples is dedicated to helping families in need.

"On a typical food distribution, we'll give out food to 30 to 40 families. On Tuesday, we served 387 families," said Vann Ellison, President & CEO of St. Matthew's House.

On Thursday, 580 families lined up outside the donation center waiting to get bags of food.

A scene that's becoming the new normal as many continue to struggle financially during this pandemic.

"It's unprecedented times, we never imagined it would be as bad as it is right now," said Ellison.

The food pickup system is drive-thru style.

People pull up in their cars, and volunteers load them up with bags of fresh produce, canned goods, and sometimes even diapers.

"Today, the Harry Chapin Food Bank, Midwest Food Bank, and many community partners have come together to provide food for us," said Ellison.

One local leader stepping in to help is State Representative Bob Rommel, who recently donated his April State of Florida paycheck to St. Matthew's House.

"I feel fortunate that I'm still working as a State Representative and [can] donate my salary, not only as a gesture but to encourage others that are still working to do the same," said Rep. Rommel.

Representative Rommel's 2,500 dollar donation will help the donation center meet increased demand.

"Everyone of these cars is going to have a mom, a dad, a family that is hurting and really needs the resources we're going to give them today," said Ellison.

FOX 4 spoke with one of the moms who lined up for food Thursday — she asked to remain anonymous.

"Before all this happened I lost all my food stamps, and nobody understands until you have five hours at work and then this comes along, I'm really grateful," she said.

Her job recently cut her hours and now she's turning to St. Matthew's House to help her feed her young daughter.

"I'm a two-year-old teacher, and nobody is paying for daycare because everyone wants their kids to be safe right now."

St. Matthew's House will continue to have its food pantry at their Donation Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For more information, click here.