Community makes 500 Thanksgiving meals for neighbors in need

Published: November 25, 2021 6:40 AM EST
Updated: November 25, 2021 5:20 PM EST

On Thanksgiving morning, a neighborhood in Estero is coming together to provide 500 meals for people in need.

The Copperleaf community will be serving them to impoverished families who live throughout Bonita Springs, just miles away from the gates of this neighborhood, people who couldn’t just stroll down to the store and grab a turkey this holiday. They are all clients of the charity Cafe of Life, which serves working, poor, mostly Hispanic families around the Bonita Springs area. 10% of them are homeless and almost all are described as “in transition” in their lives, whether that means single mothers, people who have lost their jobs or migrant families.

Copperleaf residents have spent the past few days cooking meals for these families in their individual homes. On Thursday, those meals will be organized in the community clubhouse and driven to four Cafe of Life sites where they will be handed out to families.

More than 80 people from the Copperleaf community have volunteered to help cook, organize and transport the meals. Doreen Evans was the chief organizer and says he knew it would take a village to deliver this Thanksgiving. “The request was we had 500 I split 500 was okay and I took a deep breath and it was for 300 adults and 200 children. Okay, that’s not that’s… not too bad,” said Evans.

They say the chance to do something so hands-on, rather than just writing a check, has been its own wonderful reward.

“They’re just so appreciative, and just real people that are happy to interact with us, to receive the food,” said Doreen Evans, chief organizer. “I think it’s the best experience of all. Everyone who has gone has said, ‘Well, that was what it was all about. Thank you. Thank you.’ So we get more than we give. There’s no question about that.”

Jeff Nichols is the director of Cafe of Life. “Today is a very special day and a special meal. So undoubtedly, they appreciate that much more than just a regular meal,” said Nichols.

Evans started the initiative three years ago when she says she was looking for a meaningful way to spend Thanksgiving with her granddaughter. Word spread throughout the neighborhood, and now 500 meals including 31 trays of sliced turkey in gravy, 14 trays of mashed potatoes, 14 trays of stuffing, 40 pies, 500 boiled eggs and so much more will be served Thursday.

Ray Ann is a Copperleaf resident. “I think there’s a lot of gratitude in this community and a lot of appreciation of what we can do for others,” she said.

“I hope that what it is is a feeling of love, a feeling of sharing, a feeling of community, that we’re local, we’re not far from where these people live,” Evans said. “Hopefully we’re sharing our love as well as our food.”