By ED FRANKS
Dave Grueser, president of the Pine Island Food Pantry, organized a "farewell party" for former Winn-Dixie manager Dan Loughlin. Sunday afternoon, a crowd of more than 75 people gathered to say goodbye to Loughlin, who was transferred to North Fort Myers last month.
Pastor Roger Lemke, left, and Betsy Haesemeyer present Dan Loughlin, right, with Pine Island map signed by all.
"I can say that the Pine Island Food Pantry would not exist without Dan Loughlin," Grueser said. "He is just amazing. Winn-Dixie donates day-old meats and breads to the food pantry, along with providing a collection box at the front of the store for drop off donations. There isn't an organization on the island that Dan hasn't helped."
"This is the most non-assuming man I've ever met," Grueser added. "I've known Dan since before Charley, maybe 11 or 12 years now. He was always there to answer any questions, to help in any way he could. There is no way we can repay you for all you have done for this island. This is just a small way we can express our thanks to you."
For the occasion, Beacon of H.O.P.E. director Betsy Haesemeyer quoted Frederick Buechner, an American writer and theologian. The quote comes from "Wishful Thinking": "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep need meet."
"Dan's generosity, kindness and creativity, his never-ending asking, '"How can I help' is the most amazing thing and we've been truly blessed that you were here and you will be sorely missed," Haesemeyer said.
Grueser presented Loughlin with several gifts, including a framed map of Pine Island signed by all of the guests, a $200 gift card for Shell gas (so he wouldn't have any excuse not to come back and visit) and a two-night stay at Tarpon Lodge for him and his fiancee, Lynn, including food.
Grueser introduced Loughlin.
"First I want to thank all of you for coming out today," Loughlin said. "This means the world to me. I remember as a kid growing up there would be strangers at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. From a very young age I was taught to be a blessing to others and to help other people. You get more by giving than you do by receiving. "The Food Pantry, Mary and Dave, just do wonderful things and I'm going to continue to help them any way I can," he continued. "This island has always held a special place in my heart and I will be glad to come back any time. This is a very special island and who knows, I may come back here to live.
"Thank you for this very special day."