Give thanks by giving to others this holiday

There are many ways to get involved in making Thanksgiving brighter for folks in need in West Orange County.

Highpoint Church volunteers formed an assembly line Saturday morning at Southeastern Food Bank to fill boxes with nonperishable food items to be distributed in the community Thanksgiving morning.
Highpoint Church volunteers formed an assembly line Saturday morning at Southeastern Food Bank to fill boxes with nonperishable food items to be distributed in the community Thanksgiving morning.
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In the spirit of the upcoming season of giving thanks, here are some ways to assist individuals and families in need for Thanksgiving.



There is still time to assist the Oakland Police Department in its annual holiday food drive, which will provide a Thanksgiving meal to 20 families. Although the deadline has passed to provide grocery store gift cards for food items, the department still is collecting Visa gift cards.

These cards will be used to purchase other supplies to make a complete and beautiful holiday table for people in need in the community. The department is accepting them at 540 E. Oakland Ave. until noon Friday.

For information, call (407) 656-9797.



The city of Winter Garden is holding its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive now through Nov. 22. Items can be dropped off at the West Orange Christian Service Center, 300 W. Franklin St., Ocoee.

Required food items for the baskets are two types of canned vegetables, white or sweet potatoes, stuffing mix, bread or rolls, cranberry sauce, dessert and a $10 Publix or Aldi’s gift card for the family to buy a turkey. Optional items are apples, brown sugar, canned pumpkin, coffee, sugar, evaporated milk, flour, pie crust and onions.

Baskets can be boxes or plastic laundry baskets. Families typically are six people. To create a basket for a specific type of family demographic, call the center. For information, call (407) 656-6678.



The Matthew’s Hope ministry provides a warm holiday meal for the homeless population in West Orange County — about 200 people — on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The individuals also are given extra food pantry items during the holidays.

There is an urgent need for nonperishable food items and food staples to stock the pantry to continue feeding the homeless. Donations can be dropped off at the Matthew’s Hope outreach center, 611 Business Park Blvd., Winter Garden, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call (407) 905-9500.



Lifebridge Church Orlando, in Ocoee, is putting together Thanksgiving food baskets for families that might need some assistance this holiday season. Participants can buy and decorate a basket, help deliver the baskets or nominate a family that could use a basket this Thanksgiving.

This year, the church is partnering with Thanksgiving Basket Brigade of Central Florida to provide baskets. Lifebridge is accepting filled baskets until Thursday, Nov. 18.

Laundry baskets should be filled with the following: baking/roasting pan; $10 grocery gift card for a turkey; stuffing mix; canned green beans, cranberry, yams, corn and mushroom soup; chicken broth; French fried onions; instant potatoes; jars of gravy; corn bread mix; marshmallows; and pie filling and crusts.

Sign up to help or to nominate a family at



Volunteers filled hundreds of banana boxes with pallets of food items Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Southeastern Food Bank warehouse in Ocoee. Now, folks are needed to deliver those boxes Thanksgiving morning to thousands of hungry people in West Orange County.

Saturday was the second workday to prepare for feeding people in need through the annual Food For Families program. Publix Super Markets, Goya Foods and Advent Health have donated the food for this effort.

On Thanksgiving morning, volunteers will gather at the West Orlando Baptist Church to load the food in their vehicles and deliver the food to disadvantaged families. Each pre-selected family will get a box of food and a bag of household products valued at $70. The delivery includes canned goods, pasta, rice, baked goods, bread, cereal and other staple items; and household items including toilet paper, bleach and disinfecting wipes. 

The Thanksgiving delivery will feed a family for 4-5 days.
Now in its 30th year, Food For Families has become a tradition for many volunteers in the spring and for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Anyone interested in delivering the food to 1,200 addresses should go to the West Orlando Baptist Church, 1006 E. Crown Point Road in Ocoee, at 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 25. The food delivery should be completed by 11.

For more information on how you can help or volunteer, visit Money and food donations also can be made to support the Southeastern Food Bank by visiting



This holiday season, give the gift of meals and hope through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. In the Hope for the Holidays campaign, an investment of $10 provides up to 40 meals for families, seniors and children in the community experiencing hunger.

For information, visit



The Heart of Florida United Way’s Thanksgiving Project 2021 is taking place through Saturday, Nov. 20. The communitywide food drive will provide a full holiday meal to 1,800 families in need.

There are a variety of volunteer shifts to choose from Thanksgiving Day, or folks can make a monetary donation. It takes $55 to feed a family of four.

For more information on how to get involved, contact [email protected].



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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