Harry Chapin Food Bank continues meeting the needs of our community

All is new, clean and bright for Harry Chapin Food Bank here in Collier County, with the prospect of more growth, more programs and more collaboration with the community on the horizon.

The food bank has opened a new, 13,500-square-foot Collier County Center at 3940 Prospect Ave. in Naples. The reason is simple: “We needed space,” said Eric Hitzeman, food bank operations director. The Harry Chapin Food Bank had been operating out of space leased from Meals of Hope in Naples, one of the food bank’s partner agencies. “We both benefited from shared space and equipment for many years,” Hitzeman said. Both entities are continuing to grow. The search for new space was both natural and necessary, he said.

The new facility reinforces the food bank’s significant place in the Collier County nonprofit network. “We have been an important part of the Naples community for more than 20 years,” said Richard LeBer, food bank president and CEO.

“We are excited about having a new home that reflects our position here. “Our center will allow us to house more staff in Naples and build closer connections with our Naples donors, volunteers, and agency partners,” LeBer said. “We are looking forward to using it to facilitate collaboration among members of the Naples nonprofit community and help us expand our services throughout Collier County.”

The Harry Chapin Food Bank provides food to more than 30 nonprofit agencies in Collier County and through its mobile pantry program, called Fulfill. The food bank has grown food distribution more than 90 percent in Collier County since 2013, with 4.8 million pounds distributed last fiscal year. The renovation of the new space was completed with the assistance of Maddox Construction Company.

“Now we have a nice clean warehouse –with quadruple the space,” Hitzeman said. The result is more efficiency, better control over inventory, food safety and product rotation, he said. The facility features an expansive lobby, new office space, new community meeting room, break room, conference room and warehouse space. “It’s a beautiful new facility, with a lot of potential for future growth,” Hitzeman said.

Community volunteer Bob Chrystal of Marco Island described it another way, as he helped sort carrots in the warehouse area of the new center. “It’s heaven,” he said. “It’s just so nice here. It’s our own place. It’s like moving from an apartment to your own home.” Volunteer opportunities are also available for various businesses and corporations at the Collier center. NetJets executives and the entire sales force from its central and southwestern regions became the first major corporate group to volunteer.

NetJets teamed up with the Naples Children & Education Foundation, founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and came to the center on October 24, less than two months after Hurricane Irma devastated the area. The group packed a total of 12,321 pounds of produce and painted colorful pallets to decorate the walls. NetJets is the festival sponsor and exclusive private aviation partner of the Naples Winter Wine Festival. The NCEF also sponsors several Harry Chapin Food Bank mobile pantries to help feed the hungry in Collier County.

“The Harry Chapin Food Bank has been an incredible asset to the Collier County and Greater Florida communities, and its continuous dedication to better the lives of children, families, and seniors of the area goes beyond just meals,” said Maria Jimenez- Lara, CEO of NCEF. “The Naples Children & Education Foundation is thrilled for the organization as it continues its mission in a new Collier County facility.”

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