CLEARWATER — Imagine not having enough money to serve the family a turkey or ham dinner during the holidays. That's essentially the situation that Pinellas County's largest food bank is facing this year.
The Religious Community Services Food Bank, based in Clearwater, recently got an anonymous $30,000 donation with a request that it be used to buy Thanksgiving turkeys. RCS gladly obliged. Using the donation and other money, it bought 2,700 turkeys.
"What we do is serve people once a month," said Jerry Coleman, RCS's program director. "We wanted to make sure everybody had an opportunity to get a turkey, so we began (distributing them) on Nov. 1. In the first two and a half weeks, we handed out 2,600."
While needy families will receive canned goods and other staples for December, there are no more hams or turkeys available. RCS is seeking more donations so that more families are able to enjoy a traditional holiday meal.
"We've already given out 200 turkeys more than last year," said Coleman. "What that means is that compared to last year, we've served an additional 200 households, because we only give turkeys to households."
At RCS's location in Clearwater, needy individuals and households can come once a month and get three to four days' worth of food. Last month's clients included 420 families who were new to the food bank, said Lisa Matzner, its director of grants development.
RCS also distributes food throughout Pinellas County to 60 sites — food pantries, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens and housing programs for the disabled and elderly.
Coleman is quick to point out that many in the community help RCS feed those in need. Individuals, church congregations and corporate partners have stepped up to run food drives.
But the need is steadily rising and funding is down.
"We serve the working poor, the people who can't make ends meet. These people make out fairly well three weeks out of four, and what we do is help them in that last week," Coleman said. "Nobody is on the street dying of starvation in Pinellas County, but there are people out there who are hungry."
Correspondent Theodora Aggeles can be reached at [email protected]