"Our shelves are much fuller during the holidays. If you come back in January or February, you may not see any food at all. Also, anytime between late spring and early fall is when we struggle the most."
FORT WALTON BEACH — Volunteers at the Sharing & Caring food pantry can breathe a bit easier.
It's Christmas. And, as Sharing & Caring of Fort Walton Beach president Ken Winzeler said, Christmas is the season of giving.
"It's amazing," Winzeler said, showing off a storage shed stocked with canned goods. "This is the stuff that has come in the last week or two. People will just buy cans of food that are on sale, or just pick up something at the grocery store."
This year alone, the nonprofit has served over 4,000 individuals.
"You look at the guys and gals sitting in the lobby, and you see all ages," Winzeler said. "You have one or two homeless, you have retirees and kids."
Winzeler said although the seasonal overflow is more than appreciated and greatly needed, the Sharing & Caring staff is bracing for the New Year. It's after the gifts have been given, he said, that the needy need help the most.
"Our shelves are much fuller during the holidays," Winzeler said. "If you come back in January or February, you may not see any food at all. Also, anytime between late spring and early fall is when we struggle the most."
Candy Nowling, executive director of the Matrix Community Outreach Center in Walton County, agreed.
Nowling said it's a relief when holiday donations begin pouring in, because many parents sacrifice food in order for Santa Claus to bring a gift to their children. She said after the first of the year, like at Sharing & Caring, the giving completely stops.
"We try to help these families with both food and gifts during this time," Nowling said. "Those who donate forget that people are in need in January, February and March. I would just encourage people to remember that when people struggle, it takes a little while to recuperate."
Over in Santa Rosa County, Navarre United Methodist Church's We Care Ministries Food Pantry is currently in a bind. Jim Weiher, We Care director, said the nonprofit received only one-third of the donations it normally receives through Stamp Out Hunger.
"We receive all of the food donations from the Navarre Post Office," Weiher said. "That food drive is 75 to 80 percent of the food we give out. We're in desperate need of food this year."