At any given time 12 to 15 volunteers spend a day at the Cape Coral Caring Center assisting people needing a little help with food supplies and other services. That's especially true around the holidays even though the food shelves tend to clear off.
"Friday is our third day of handing out turkeys and meals to people for Christmas," said program operations manager Wendy Wootton. "We've been busier this year, but we have a lot of givers, too. We received a lot more toys this year, so we are able to help about 500 kids. Plus, we'll give out more than 300 Christmas meals."
Since the center opened in 1990, the agency has helped more than 70,000 Cape Coral residents on a short term basis. Most clients just need a boost to get through an uncomfortable time in their life because of economic, temporary financial crisis or other circumstances.
Volunteers Ron Metz and Dottie Brown, left, assist Cape Coral Caring Center program operations manager Wendy Wootton and volunteer Becky Thompson, right, bag canned goods and bags of toys to be handed out to people who need help over the holiday season.
"We are fortunate and blessed to live in a very giving community," said executive director Julie Ferguson. "We are constantly looking to the churches and community businesses and individuals for donations."
Last year alone, more than 12,000 individuals representing 4,000 families received assistance from the Caring Center. All it takes to get assistance is by showing a driver's license or Florida ID with a Cape Coral address, but the staff stresses they can not provide long-term assistance. They only bridge the gap caused by some emergency.
"We've been known to hand out gift cards for food items when necessary," said Wootton. "That's usually a once-in-a-lifetime thing, like handing out a bus pass that lasts a month or helping someone pay their electric bill (when funds are available) in the summer when the bill tends to be higher."
Wootton added that they will be handing out food and toys through Christmas Eve. The center will be open on Monday, 9 a.m. to noon, in case any family in need walks in.
While the stock on the shelves disappears from time to time, especially around the holidays, they always seem to fill up through the generosity of individual and business donors along with the city of Cape Coral, civic and fraternal organizations and the United Way.
"We never turn people away," said Wootton. "It's an absolute blessing that we can get donations from the community and the churches."
The center also served up more than 300 meals to families for Thanksgiving.
The Caring Center thrives because of a dedicated core of volunteers who interview clients, inventory items donated and assist with the operation of the center.
"Needless to say we couldn't do this without our volunteers." said Wootton.
For more information call 945-1927, or visit the website www.capecoralcaringcenter.org