In a heartwarming collaboration, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church in Leesburg have partnered with one another to create Joining Hands in Food Ministry. The group is a certified 501(c)(3) non-profit and an authorized partner agency of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and are making significant strides under the leadership of Chief Operating Officer Richard Cassem, a seasoned former U.S. Military veteran with a knack for organization. The ministry, dedicated to providing free food to those in need, operates every second Friday of the month, offering a week’s worth of provisions to struggling families.
(COO Richard Cassem on the left stands with Bob Glockler who is the president of Joining Hands In Food Ministry. Together these two have been an instrumental part of giving back to so many.)
My wife and I were personally driving by Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on my way to drop my daughter off this morning and when I saw this massive group of cars, I just had to stop and see what it was all about. When I arrived, it was like watching the interior of the Ford Motor Factory in Michigan with the precision going on.
(A sea of cars as far as the eye could see were lined up this morning ready to receive a weeks worth of free groceries. It was hard to fathom just how many families were getting much needed assistance. Richard Cassem said it was one of the largest food distributions he has been a part of so far.)
Under a well-coordinated assembly line operation, families receive tailored assistance: 1-2 person households get 2 bags, 3-4 people receive 4 bags, 5-6 people are provided 6 bags, and families with 7-8 or more individuals receive 8 or more bags of food. The operation, run with military precision, ensures efficient distribution and quick turnaround to the many families in need. In fact when the group started they did 70,000lbs worth of food in 2015. Those numbers have skyrocketed to over 133,000lbs in 2022. Those numbers could reach well over 140,000lbs in 2023.
The collaboration extends beyond Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, with neighboring First Presbyterian Church joining forces. This partnership exemplifies solidarity, as First Presbyterian opens its doors to transfer food whenever Gloria Dei faces shortages. This morning, we caught Richard Cassem en route to First Presbyterian, illustrating the seamless support system between the two churches.
(Caring volunteers work to pack bags for those in need. The assembly line never stops until everyone has been taken care of. “It is hard work but worth every moment.” said Donna.)
As the holiday season approaches, November and December mark the busiest months for the food ministry. The demand for assistance surges during this period, emphasizing the importance of community support.
Upon arrival, recipients must provide the necessary information to prove financial need and meet monthly income criteria. Volunteers, reminiscent of a NASCAR pit crew, swiftly ensure that each car receives the right number of bags, concluding the entire process in an impressive 15 to 20 seconds. It is one of the most amazing parts about the entire process. Everyone has a job and everyone knows what to do. It is incredible precision and all of them are volunteers.
(At the end of the assembly line, the bags of food are put into awaiting cars. An impressive process. Each car takes an average of 15-20 seconds to fill.)
Bob Glockler, the president overseeing the operation, manages logistics alongside Richard, guaranteeing a smoothly run initiative. Financial company Thrivent contributes both bags and volunteer efforts, while additional support comes from Farm Share in Homestead, Florida. Farm Share leverages its purchasing power and farmer network to extend the impact of every dollar, providing nutritious food donations across the state. Second Harvest Food Bank, a key ally, plays a vital role in addressing unmet needs in Central Florida.
(Thrivant engagement leader Jeremy Couch’s company donates bags, shirts and other food items to help the families out. He is involved with many similar events around our community. Jeremy was hosting an appreciation lunch for all the volunteers as well.)
Joining Hands in Food Ministry reflects a broader spirit of community engagement, emphasizing the importance of collective efforts to empower and transform lives. If you know of a family in need, ensure they are aware of this dedicated group working tirelessly to make a positive difference.
(COO Richard Cassem middle stands with volunteer Deb Krase on the right and Dianne Marcotte on the left. The volunteer effort lasts for two hours but the impacts of their efforts last a lifetime.)
As the community continues to grow more and more families will be in need of financial assistance. For so many this offers a beacon of hope. Even if the supplies only last a week or could be stretched to two weeks if rationed, it is a huge help. We were blown away by the amount of support that we saw and we look foward to the December food drive coming up the second Friday of next month.
(Volunteers stock bags with bread and other essential food items for those in need.)
(This group of volunteers were in the finishing stages of packing bags for the deployment to the line of cars waiting outside.)
(All the cardboard used for the goods is recycled. Richard Cassem makes sure that all items that can be recycled are put in a van and taken to the Astatula Dump.)
Visit their facebook page for more information – Joining Hands in Food Ministry