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Stock the Fridge for Lee Health an ongoing success

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Sep 29, 2021

Centennial Bank Riverwalk branch manager Jennifer Miller, Centennial Bank Pine Island branch manager Elsie Stearns and Lee Health Foundation Director of Development Duane Higgin with items collected for the Stock the Fridge drive. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ELSIE STEARNS


After Centennial Bank Riverwalk office branch manager Jennifer Miller heard about the Stock the Fridge Program, she knew she wanted to get involved. It wasn’t long until Elsie Stearns, manager of the Pine Island branch jumped right on board.

Stearns said many customers who came in and saw the display, came right back with donations of both snacks and cash for the program.

Lee Health Foundation Director of Development Duane Higgins said he was very excited when Miller reached out to him in hopes of getting involved to help medical staff stay well nourished through the long working hours that came with the pandemic.

Miller, in turn, asked Stearns if the Pine Island branch would like to participate. Stearns said it was an easy yes, as she loves giving back and any community involvement she can garner. Stearns immediately sent emails to businesses she knows to be heavily involved in community outreach and said the response was tremendous.

“We, the foundation, were looking for ways to support the staff within the hospitals. We came up with the idea of Stock the Fridge. Every department, every unit of Cape Coral Hospital has a break room with a fridge. The idea was to get snacks to these break rooms because many of these nurses, therapists and CNAs have not had time through the COVID surge to have real breaks or even go downstairs to get lunch,” said Higgins.

The foundation was looking for small acts of kindness, said Higgins. Eighteen-gallon bins are filled with various snacks able to be consumed quickly.

The recipients are very grateful for the support they’ve received from the community. One nurse, in particular told him she has not felt so much support in her 18 years on the job as she has in the past two months.

Senior leaders became aware of the need to support the staff when more patients had come in than ever before, leaving the staff exhausted and hungry.

“I remember taking the first bin into the emergency department at Cape Coral Hospital. I had sent an email to the nursing director the night before about what we were going to do. When I wheeled that bin in, she started to tear up because she has such a concern for her nurses and staff,” Higgins said.

Centennial Bank has added great abundance to the program, which currently has no end date, Higgins said, He recommends going to Leehealthfoundation.org/helpourheros to make a donation to the program.

“It ended up being a lot, but it wasn’t a surprise. That’s just how Matlacha and Pine Island roll. Doing something like that, that’s fun and kind and giving is always so rewarding,” Stearns said.

The Centennial Bank branch on Pine island is located at 5551 Sunset Lane, St James City. For additional information, call 239-283-1618.