No government, no military contingent, no church or any other private organization had ever attempted what Palm Coast government and Parkview Church did Saturday: the distribution of 5,000 boxes packed with a week’s worth of groceries, and thousands of additional boxes of snacks and Easter candy, for families that streamed through the two drop locations.
But the alliance of church and state–or city state–did just that between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., clearing canyons of brown boxes from road to vehicle trunks and completing what amounted to the largest single-day food aid operation in the city’s or county’s history: What the city dubbed Feed Palm Coast raised $100,000 and drew on the work of hundreds of volunteers and city employees, and on the immeasurable: the solidarity of a community humbly answering a need that at times was paid with the tears of recipients.
An $18,000 contribution from residents of Hammock Dunes illustrated how the effort transcended municipal boundaries, as so much else has during the coronavirus emergency. (Hammock Dunes Owners Association President Ralph Dumke described the contribution as support from “neighbors to everyone in Palm Coast.”)
Some residents may have been apprehensive about getting their boxes without waiting half the day in line: a big food drop a couple of weeks ago at Flagler Palm Coast High School, hurriedly organized by the county after the county got a last-minute opportunity to bring the aid to Flagler, had been a bit chaotic and left some residents unsatisfied, though the timing was out of the county’s control.
The apprehension was evident in an email Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland got half-way through Saturday. “This morning, my husband and I chose to pack our 5 kids up and head out to the food drive at 9:25am, totally prepared for an unorganized shit-show,” the family’s matriarch wrote Holland, “but we were grateful for the opportunity! We told the kids to pack their activity clip boards and water bottles. My husband and I poured fresh cups of coffee, took a minute to woosaw before hopping in the van and settling in to what could potentially be a couple hours. We live in the “P” section so we headed out to the city hall location.”
As mother and father drove to City Hall, they prepared their children for what was ahead, wanting them to understand all the intricacies of the fund-raising drive, its purpose, what goes into pulling an effort of that magnitude in less than two weeks. They explained to them that they might have to be in the van a while.
It turned out to be quite different than what the family had expected, starting with the acoustic musicians Flagler Broadcasting had arranged at the arrival point, before volunteers took over traffic control. “As we pulled up and saw the Eclipse Studio guys with the acoustic musician set up, I teared up,” the mother continued in her email to Holland. “Needless to say, we were greeted by traffic directors and volunteers with kindness and smiles. We drove right in and were pulling out to head back home at 9:42am!! In total awe, I held back a full on cry and pointed out to my family all the amazing things I recognized. Our ten year old son Reef looked at us and said, ‘I noticed everything you just said! All I can say is that the vibes in that were everything right!’ That pretty much summed it up for our family. I couldn’t have said it better.”
So it was. Traffic never backed up much at the City Hall location, flowing in two rows and batches of up to 20 vehicles at a time to a stretch of road in front of City Hall where volunteers, including several county and city officials and the sheriff, had lined up along the mountains of boxes, prepared to fill trunks. It was sunny and a bit warm but not intolerably so, and Walmart had not only donated all the Easter candy for distribution but also provided pallets of water for the volunteers, while Bruster’s Ice Cream and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs donated all the food for the crews.
“It’s a great plan, it’s been well designed,” Sheriff Rick Staly, volunteering on the morning shift alongside county commissioners and city council members, said. “Cmdr. Williams, our traffic unit did a great job working with the city in coming up with the best traffic flow so it’s really moving very, very well, and I think that’s why we don’t have the back-ups that we’ve seen in past events.” He said deputies normally assigned to the courthouse, school resource deputies and members of the traffic unit were all working at food distribution sites.
As were all volunteers–who’d been temp-checked and gloved when they arrived–Holland wore her mask and a bright red Feed Palm Coast shirt designed for the occasion and provided by Parkview Church.
“Palm Coast never ceases to amaze me,” Holland said when the distribution was in its second hour. “Between our organization that provides essential city services to so many of our residents that have stepped up and have been working hard all week in an effort to make sure these boxes were sorted and done correctly, to the generous contributions of so many of our residents, it’s quite inspirational.”
Footage of Feed Palm Coast Provided by the City:
She spoke to the rhythm of trunks shutting on the fresh cargo and the applause of volunteers as vehicles drove in, stopped, exchanged appropriately-distanced greetings and gratefulness, then drove off. It was all happening almost simultaneously with two other sizable food drops–one at Education Way, where Pastor Charles Silano’s Grace Community Food Pantry distributes food to hundreds of families every Saturday and Sunday morning, and, in early afternoon, in Flagler Beach, where Mayor Linda Provencher was leading a similar effort with food provided by Silano.
“I was overwhelmed with the amount of food Pastor Silano brought us,” Provencher said today. “We delivered in Flagler Beach close to 100 meals to seniors and those without cars. We figured we had at least 200 cars come in for pick up. Obviously not all were Flagler Beach residents, but we were handing out to anyone.” Provencher has no doubt the volume would have been higher had the food drop not taken place simultaneously with Palm Coast’s, and the earlier one on Education Way. “I had several residents call me from Palm Coast and Bunnell asking for delivery, so I’ve given their info to Milissa and Catherine,who have said they would get something to them this week.”
Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson had teamed up with Silano last week for a food drop in her city. She joined Holland at the City Hall location Saturday as one of the volunteers. “We had about 500 people that came through, then we had all this food left over,” Robinson said of the Bunnell drop. “Pastor Silano brought us the works. We had meat, we had fresh fruit and vegetables, you could smell the onions, the apples, and so we actually toured through Bunnell to the retirement communities and Project Warm and the Family Life Center–all these places that they didn’t come, and we took food to them. So it was very rewarding for people to get the food in Bunnell that we felt like they needed, and they were so grateful.”
Robinson described a typical interaction with a family on Saturday: “There was a lady who came through, we filled her truck with food, and I went back to thank her, and she’s bawling,” Robinson said, “she’s crying, because she’s so grateful and appreciative, and it just–it moves me, you know? So I was so grateful with what God has blessed me with, but I’m also appreciative and blessed that I could come out and be a part of something that’s much bigger than me, and I love that, and I appreciate so much what Mayor Holland does for her community, and for the community at large.”
Provencher, Robinson and Holland have a very close working relationship and tend to reinforce each other’s initiatives, though lately Holland has been overtiming all those around her. “She takes her crazy ideas and calls us up and says, what do you think about this?” Robinson said. “And we’re like, yeah, let’s do this thing. So it’s been wonderful.”
Wonderful, if unfortunate: the celebratory atmosphere risked at times obscuring the reason for the food distribution: the most calamitous economic downturn since the Great Depression, with 30 million Americans out of work at last count, millions more expected, and an economic slump with a very uncertain expiration date.
“We do need to do more to make sure that people that are here have ways of getting what they need,” Bob Cuff, one of the Palm Coast council members volunteering–as was Eddie Branquinho–said. “People are opposed to handouts. Sometimes that’s the only way you can do it. But this is great to see this, and I hope we can do more. I was glad to hear they were taking Pastor Silano’s advice on logistics and expertise. There are people who have been doing this for years in town, but it’s always been kind of under the radar. I hope this brings attention to the problem, and it isn’t just–OK, the emergency is over, we can all go back to looking out for Number One and not worry about anybody else.”
County Commissioner Donald O’Brien stressed that point. The emergency as families will feel it, in his view, is just beginning. “This is the start of it from the social services side, because we had some stimulus money come into the community, some of the unemployment checks are arriving, but that’s not sustainable money,” O’Brien said. “I think we’re going to be looking at structural changes in the economy and permanent job loss in some cases. So you don’t change that overnight. That’s going to create more need for these kinds of events and activities, and the community really staying and rallying together.”
Never one for the limelight, O’Brien said he wasn’t interested in the photo-ops. “We’re not the difference-makers. Everybody out here is the difference maker,” he said. “But we do have to show leadership, and because we do have the ability to get our message out, which hopefully that’s what you guys are helping us with, is to get that out to the broad community, and hopefully that will create even more folks wanting to help.” (O’Brien was not aware, as he spoke, that the county’s public information office, following County Administrator Jerry Cameron’s order, last week removed FlaglerLive from its media distribution list out of retaliation over articles Cameron didn’t like.)
In the shadows of compassion, the judgments are almost inevitable. Maybe it was an isolated statement, but one of the volunteers on the line at one point remarked about the “late-model” and “expensive” truck that had just gone through the line–the sort of judgment common on social media as residents, sitting behind glassy computer screens, cast stones at those seeking aid.
O’Brien may have heard a similar judgment. He was certainly aware of them. He had a message for those casting them.
“Even if you don’t help, just be respectful and understand that your neighbor may be going through things, so be a little kinder and really try to understand the situation, and have a paradigm shift of maybe how you view things,” O’Brien said. “Example: you see some of the cars come through here, and you see a late-model car. But you know, if you’ve done this before, and I have, you quickly learn that that doesn’t matter because usually the car is the last thing to go, because if you lose your job, or if you have a job, you still need to get there. So it doesn’t matter what the cars look like. That’s a surface thing, and you can’t judge somebody by that. That’s what I’m talking about–a paradigm shift.”
Beautifully written, FlaglerLive, and beautifully executed, Palm Coast, Grace Community Food Pantry, and Flagler Beach.
Kudos to all the volunteers, and to WalMart, Brusters Ice Cream, and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.
This is why we love living here – neighbors supporting neighbors.
denise calderwood says
Yes thank you to all those volunteers and those who donated to the effort. But I think what was done is almost superficial. Our community needs to wake up and understand that prior to this pandemic, 64% of Flagler County residents were less than one paycheck away from losing everything… the Mayor and some other county and city officials have been neglectful of addressing the long term effects that the previous recession and hurricanes had left our residents with….. And that is why Flagler County has one of the highest suicide rates in the state and even the homeless problem too…..so Please remember to REACH OUT for help and DON’T GIVE UP because there are People out there willing and able to help. You just have to call the right places and agencies and that is hard to do since our services come out of Volusia County due to Flagler County and the City of Palm Coast not supporting local agencies. … If Palm Coast truly wanted to help than they should have considered giving residents a break on their water bill!
Wanda S. Morsell says
What a wonderful blessing and tremendous loving undertaking by the major, the church, hundreds of volunteers and donors. Very needed and appreciated! Thank you so much!
CB from PC says
Here is a paradigm shift. If someone drives an expensive truck thru here and they can live with themselves for taking the free food, that’s their problem.
More amazing is that there is this much wealth disparity in a small County like this, that this many people require assistance to keep from starving.
Maybe our politicians need to forget the Hackathons and moldy building purchases and focus on the poverty issue.
If they don’t wake up, there is an election in November.
I drive a fancy truck. But my purpose was to drive thru and get food for my elderly neighbors , who BTW are terrified of coming outside. Why??? the hype and the media frenzy that is being put out over the virus. It was a great effort by the city to provide for families regardless of need. People regardless of how you feel will always think their entitled to something for free. They don’t and won’t care how you feel.
As for the food that was gotten, I found it very hard that it would even feed a family of 4, for a week as it was announced by the city. The item’s packaged were 4 can’s of soup 12 ounce ea, 4 packet’s of chili ” Hot/Spicy that you warm up in the microwave. 1 – 12 ounce can of chicken & dumplings. And an whole box of junk style food IE: Chips, cracker’s, etc. Nothing healthy per say for the elderly. I presented the box’s and they graciously accepted them but you could see the concern in their eye’s. I know beggar’s can’t be choosey as it’s free.
Good job P.C. but I think it missed the point.
Good job Palm Coast.
Happy Citizen says
What a wonderful demonstration of compassion and care for our neighbors. God bless all who gave or contributed in any way as well as those who were fortunate enough to benefit. We need this type of concern for one another all the time.
Willy Boy says
Amazing! Had no idea there were so many needy. I loaded food in one guys truck that had three cases of beer in there.
Concerned Citizen says
If we just took a minute to be kind to each other. And stop worrying about late model cars.
I had the chance to help out at one of these over the weekend and it was very humbling. Even though I myself am down to almost nothing work and savings wise. I had the chance to talk to several folks coming in and most have lost everything. For some that “late model car” was all that was left of better times.
Getting rid of a car is not easy. Unless you want to be low balled and taken advantage of. Also a repossesion is damaging and long lasting. So many will try and make it work until there is no other option. Also without transportation in this County you are dead in the water..And besides why are you knocking them when they were doing well? Jealous much?
It’s easy to loose everything in the blink of an eye. Instead of hating let’s be nice to each other. And if you can’t just leave them alone.
Mary Fusco says
Yes you are dead in the water without transportation. I am a senior on a fixed income and I drive a 2007 KIA. Yes, I could get a newer model car but then I would be short on $ for food. Priorities. Obviously, they were not doing well or they would not be on line for food. Jealous? I learned the word “budget” when I got married 52 years ago. LOL.
One Pointing Back at You says
I’m really glad Flaglerlive highlighted the late model car topic and Mr. O’Brien passing on his experience. Leaving a crime littered crack infested neighborhood in the late eighties and now living here for thirty years I try to live a life of not passing judgment on others, especially when I don’t know the full story. However, I must admit it was puzzling to continually see late model cars at the food drops locally even well before the pandemic hit. Thank you for the enlightening reality check.
Love thy neighbor says
This is just so great! ♥️I had no idea how it all went down until I read this article. I donated food and told someone I know about how to go about donating and they said “ No! Aren’t you worried about running out?” (This person is not going to run out. Of anything). I said “No, it was just a bag of non- perishable food and I feel what we do comes back to us.” God will provide. Put good stuff out there just because it’s the right thing to do.
I like the idea of a paradigm shift. Our entire country needs a paradigm shift and I’m starting to see it, feel it, despite all the suffering, it’s there and it’s growing, getting louder, braver and exemplifies the spirit of giving and gratitude and a comprehension of what’s really important. Good job! 👏
Concerned Citizen says
The turn out was aw inspring for sure. At the location I worked I knew several other volunteers well. And most tried to get me to take something home. At that time I was still working but my job ended today. I could not take from a food drive knowing there are families with children who need it more. I have always managed to feed myself and try to help others. It’s ashame it took a Pandemic for us to come together. But happy to see it.
WOW, good stuff. Kudos to everyone involved!
Just an awesome job. It was an honor to donate to this event. Park view church is awesome.
I didn’t think that it was appropriate to insert an editorial comment in an article about community togetherness, but then I realized that it was the perfect place.
“O’Brien was not aware, as he spoke, that the county’s public information office, following County Administrator Jerry Cameron’s order, last week removed FlaglerLive from its media distribution list out of retaliation over articles Cameron didn’t like.” In time of crisis, some “leaders” prove that they are first, last, and always just a horse’s ass.
CB from PC says
There us an old saying, and this is to anyone in business: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. And I do not mean food drive. More succinctly, don’t piss off people paying money to support your “product”,
Sean O’Brien says
You should have listened to yourself. You’re right, it’s not appropriate. What are you even talking about? What exactly is your point? In times of crisis Donald is out helping our community under his own volition. Other than insulting people anonymously, what are YOU doing?
Consider using your real name if you decide to “insert an editorial comment” . It makes your opinion actually credible if you’re willing to stand by your words.
WTG PC. Its a start. This County has a huge continuous need for all types of Help. God Bless
Not in judgement says
Wonderful coordination of so many to help so many. As to judging what people are driving, or even where people are living, you don’t know all the circumstances. I live in a gated community, drive a decent car, but due to a severe illness, lost my high paying job, went through all my resources and had an empty bank account, fridge and pantry, with mortgage, utilities, and other bills due. Through the kindness of friends, I was given financial help and food. Don’t judge unless you will be judged.
My cousin and his wife both have their jobs still. Both drive new mercedes and have no children, yet they were able to go to multiple locations mutiple times and recieve numerouse boxes of food for free! They have no children but yet were able to take advantage of these kind people.
They threw away most the can food and only kept the snacks. Also they sold some of the goods at a discounted rate to the family across the street that is out of work with 3 kids.
Land of no turn signals says says
It’s nobodies business if you choose pay $400 -$600 a month vehicle payment without a pot to piss in.Props to all the volunteers.
Take a moment to consider dream possibilities:
Jack Howell says
Kudo’s to the Palm Coast City staff who worked so hard for the past few weeks preparing everything for the distribution to our citizens in need! I know they worked very hard to ensure that the food drive would be well executed. Special thanks to our city customer service employees! I think the world of all of the employees who work so hard to make this city run so well.
CB from PC says
Fix the lack of decent jobs and there will be no need for this except the truly disabled or elderly.