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Frontline workers, abuse victims, hundreds of SWFL families feast on free food from Waterside Shops

“To see those emergency workers pulling up and loading pizzas in their cars, there wasn’t a day we didn’t cry…it’s just a very special experience,” said Waterside Shops General Manager Anne Fleming.

Tears of joy after helping hundreds of workers on the frontlines, local parents and children enjoy a free meal.

“We wanted to support our restaurants, so we went into a partnership with California Pizza Kitchen and we had a goal in the first month to give away a thousand pizzas,” Fleming said.

A goal they accomplished by donating dinner to organizations like Lee Health’s Child Development Center.

“We are a child care center for hospital employees, so while they’re working, they bring their kids to us,” said Joanne Fuciu, system director of child development programs at Lee Health. “It was probably one of the best things we could have had for our families.”

Frontline workers, abuse victims, hundreds of SWFL families feast on free food from Waterside Shops (WINK News)

They also aimed to feed families currently living in the Shelter for Abused Women and Children.

“We currently have 28 adults, 21 children, one dog and one cat in the shelter. The women and children loved the meal, it was wonderful,” said Tami Wellford who is a volunteer and resource manager at the shelter. “It supported our charity, the women we serve and it supported our economy so I think in this difficult time the more we can help each out the better.”

“For me, the most emotional moment was seeing the gratitude. A lot of the children have written me thank you notes and drawn pictures of pizzas and they’re just so sweet, so grateful,” Fleming said. “Our community is pretty remarkable, the way everybody has come together to help and we were just trying to be a little part of that.”

A contributing part of our Gulfshore Strong community.

Fleming says if Gov. Ron DeSantis extends the April 30 order, they’ll likely partner with another restaurant to donate 1,000 more meals in May.

Below is the full list of meal recipients:

  • Collier County EMS
  • Naples Fire & EMS
  • Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO)
  • Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
  • Physicians Regional Hospital
  • North Collier Fire Station
  • NCH
  • The Senior Center at JFCS
  • Lee Health
  • The Shelter for Abused Women & Children
  • Youth Haven

Reporter:Melinda Lee
Writer:Briana Harvath
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