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Hundreds receive Thanksgiving baskets

November 29, 2012
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Several hundred people were given turkeys, chickens, and all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving dinner last week by Lehigh Community Services and several other organizations in Lehigh.

Charlotte Ray Nicely, executive director of LCS.

"It may very well be the large Thanksgiving dinner baskets that have been given away by all the supporting organizations," Nicely said.

Article Photos

Blanca Alvarez, center, receives some of the free Thanksgiving giveaway food at Lehigh Community Services last week. At left is volunteer Javi Valentine, and at right is Diane Brownrigg, with Lehigh Community Services.

At Lehigh Community Services, Nicely said some 350 individuals representing that many families in Lehigh who were eligible. Volunteers were on hand for the give-away on Plaza Drive.

She said some 300 turkeys and more than 100 chickens were given away, too.

Those who received the Thanksgiving food applied a few weeks ago and if they were eligible for the giveaway, they were told to come last Tuesday to get their food.

One of those was Blanca Alvarez, who said receiving two Cornish hens was wonderful for her and her husband. The two elderly people live along and had also received other food from another organization to go along with the chickens.

"Thank you so much. We both really appreciate the help for Thanksgiving," she said.

Diane Brownrigg, who works at LCS and Javi Valentine, a volunteer, presented Alvarez with the food.

Nicely, who operates Community Services, said there were several other places in Lehigh who were also giving away Thanksgiving baskets and that all the organizations work together to make sure nobody tries to get free food from more than one place. But there was a case or two this year that someone "double dipped" and got food from some of the churches giving away food.

"We all prepare a list of those who are eligible and it is circulated among those who give away food," Nicely said. "The reason we do this is to give away as much food to people in the community that we can and if there are those who double dip, then someone else is not getting any food. LCS and the other organizations have only such much food and they hate to turn people away when they register, but we want those who need the food to get it. We usually give food those people who receive food stamps," she said.

Other organizations in Lehigh that gave away Thanksgiving baskets included St. Raphael's Church, New Life Assembly of God, Lehigh Christian Church, new Beginnings, Mirror Lake Elementary School, Lehigh Acres Elementary School and Nation's Association in fort Myers.

"The Kiwanis Club always gives turkeys to the schools," she said.

Nicely said she believes the Thanksgiving giveaway program is about 20 years old.

Now since 2007, economic times have worsened in Lehigh and there has been more need to help people during the holiday season, Nicely added.

"We also want to thank the many, any individuals who brought food to Community Services and a special thanks to Bowers Accounting who gave us turkeys. "This is something they do every year and we give them thanks for their involvement," Nicely said. "Joanie Jeanette, the CEO at Lehigh Regional Medical Center, also gave us 25 thanksgiving baskets and the Moose gave us 25 Thanksgiving baskets. We always get a basket from the employees of the Tax Collectors Office, too. They adopt a local family. There are so many to thank; I hope I didn't forget someone."

There is the Church of the Nazarene, the Veterans Park School, the Lehigh Acres Middle School, Max'd Out, the Lehigh Health and Rehab Center, the World Gym and the Victory Christian Center, the Presbyterian Church, St. Anselm Episcopal church, the Lehigh Soccer Club, the Lehigh Blvd. Baptists Church and Sweet Bay supermarket. The other supermarkets also help by giving food to the Harry Chapin Food Bank and we get food from them to hand out in Lehigh, too," Nicely said.

Lehigh Community Services is now preparing for a gala Christmas gift toy giveaway for area families that will not be able to provide toys to their children. It is also an event that Community Services has been doing for years.

"Families have to sign up to become eligible so we have enough toys to go around," she said. Registration for families to receive toys runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7. Families should come into our office at 210 Plaza Drive between 1 and 3 p.m. to apply.

"Again, may people and organizations in the community help us buy the toys," Nicely said.

Toys must be chose and/or purchased according to the ages of the children. Then workers and volunteers divide them up into Christmas bags with the family name on them.

Toys will be given away just before Christmas, "Nicely said.



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