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Beacon of HOPE delivers 338 Christmas meals

January 2, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Early in the day on Monday, Dec. 24, dozens of volunteers gathered at Fire Station #1 to begin preparations for the delivery of more than 300 Christmas meals to those in need on Pine Island and Matlacha.

"Chief Ben Mickuleit, always a strong supporter of the Beacon, offered us the challenge of delivering a record number of meals this year," Beacon if HOPE Executive Director Betsy Haesemeyer said. "Last year we delivered about 200 and the chief challenged us to deliver 300. The final tally was 338 meals."

The amount of food was staggering. The amounts needed were 60 casseroles pans of stuffing (9-inch x 11-inch), 60 casserole-size pans of green beans (9 x 11), 300-600 dinner rolls and 60 pies. Everything had to be accumulated, refrigerated, brought to the firehouse, and delivered to the people on Matlacha and Pine island on Christmas Eve.

"We needed lots of help cooking, prepping and delivering meals," Haesemeyer said. "This is always a team effort and this year, like every year, everyone worked well together to get this labor of love done.

"The idea for delivering Christmas meals was originally Dick and Diane Mayer's idea," Haesemeyer said. "They wanted to do something more than just put gifts under the tree and now we're in our fifth or sixth year and this has been our most successful year ever!"

Volunteers started working days before accumulating various foods and everything was delivered to the Beacon on Saturday or Sunday where it would be refrigerated.

Then the food was transported to the staging area at the firehouse early Monday morning.

"I don't know if it's a sign that the island is changing, but last year the meals we delivered were delivered mostly single meals but this year we had many more families in need and delivered multiple meals for families," Haesemeyer said.

"This is a wonderful island family event." Haesemeyer said. "All of the churches are always involved, we have grandparents with their grandchildren and even people visiting the island come out to help us. We even had a couple from Cape Coral come over to volunteer. I'm very happy with the results."



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