In age of coronavirus, Farm Share event more successful than ever

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  • A volunteer holds a sign reminding Farm Share food recipients to keep their windows up and trunks open to help minimize contact and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. ELM STREET SPORTSMAN ASSOCIATION
    A volunteer holds a sign reminding Farm Share food recipients to keep their windows up and trunks open to help minimize contact and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. ELM STREET SPORTSMAN ASSOCIATION
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Last Saturday morning’s food distribution at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Fernandina Beach far exceeded organizers’ expectations.

“The goal was at least 500 families, and we ended up serving 1,200 families,” said Granardo Felix, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church. “And, that’s a blessing.”

Felix was familiar with Farm Share in Jacksonville, where he lived before becoming pastor at Trinity.

“We brought Farm Share here twice before this, and I coordinated those,” he said.
“I saw there was a need in
this area. Servicing young, at-risk teens in the community, I also saw that there was a need for food distribution as well.

“Now, Farm Share sees the need. We had cars over two blocks in line. We were able to service our community, and that was what we were seeking to do.”

Farm Share, which has been around since 1991, feeds millions of people in need and distributes more than 88 million pounds of food each year.

“During this time of crisis, we saw a lot of people out of work,” Felix said. “We saw every level of classification of a person and families represented out here, that superseded anything we could have ever imagined. Luckily when we ran out of food, the cars stopped coming as well.”

Felix said the Farm Share representative would like to schedule three more events in Nassau County next year.

“We want to serve the community continually,” Felix said.

He also said the outpouring of gratitude from the recipients made the mission worthwhile.

“People were just amazed,” Felix said. “You saw some were emotional as they drove up. We didn’t ask any questions. All they had to do was pop their trunk, and they received groceries. Chicken, fruits, vegetables – the whole nine yards. It was a blessing to witness.”

Felix teamed up with the Elm Street Sportsman Association for both food distributions.

“They are talented, resourceful men who are doing really good things in the community, so what better partnership?” Felix said.

Wayne Peterson, a member of the association, coordinated both distributions with Felix.

“The thing I like about it is Fernandina Beach came together,” Peterson said. “We had commissioners out here, we had the Rayonier manager and employees out here, WestRock employees out here. My phone was blowing up until 9 p.m. the night before (with) people wanting to come out to help.”

Eleven palettes of food were packed into1,242 bags of food, and families in 207 cars were the benefactors.

“We still have people coming up, and it’s 10:30 a.m.,” Peterson said. “We had to start at 8:30 a.m. because people were backed up all the way to (South) 14th Street. We’re trying to make a difference.”

Peterson said Farm Share could return later this year.

“They are booked for the year, but they are going to try to squeeze us in,” he said.

Sheila Cocchi, who volunteers with the Interfaith Dinner Network, was on hand Saturday morning.

“We know a lot of people in the community that need the resources,” she said. “When we met Pastor Felix at the first one at America’s Youth last year, they did half a truck. It took us three days to move all of it because we didn’t have the notification.”

Cocchi knew there was a need Farm Share could fill now more than ever.

“I saw people in this line who wouldn’t normally be in this line,” she said. “I think the city has been gracious enough to use this space, and every time we’ve done this, it’s improved the efficiency. We are never disappointed seeing people in this community show up when you put out the ask, and you’re asking people to show up, donate resources, give up their time.

“I would love to never need this. That is my hope for the community.”

bjones@fbnewsleader.com