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Community benefits from Kiwanis, partners to provide hot meals

Vicki Hermansen | May 06, 2020

Stuart Kiwanis Club

When Kiwanis calls, doors open. That’s the experience of Allison Wigley, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Stuart, Florida.

In response to the need resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Wigley’s club — headed by her mother, Cher Fisher — put together a hot meal, a box of fruits and vegetables, bags of groceries and some toys for kids in a matter of days. About 500 people in the Florida community benefited from the generosity of the Kiwanis club, a local foundation and several other businesses.

It began with a conversation with a friend. When Wigley noted that at-risk youth were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, her friend offered to donate US$5,000 to feed 500 people.

Stuart Kiwanis Club“So I started making some phone calls, and it grew and grew,” Wigley said. She noted the Florida agriculture commissioner had recently asked residents to support local farmers — a topic that club member Bob Burson had mentioned at a recent board meeting.

“I called a friend who runs H. E. Hill Foundation, Inc., and she had already set up buying from six different farms, giving food to thousands of people through her family foundation. They are a major supporter of our club,” Wigley said.  

The club kicked in $1,000. That was matched by the Hill foundation, which also provided boxes of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, blueberries, oranges, apples and pineapples — items that are sometimes out of reach for a family struggling to buy the basics.

Another call to Cheney Brothers, a local food distributor, allowed the club to buy food to prepare meals to go.

“They gave us discounts on burgers, cheese, buns, beans and coleslaw, so we did 500 hot meals in to-go boxes,” Wigley said. “The donor funds, the funds from Kiwanis that were matched by the foundation — it allowed us to stretch this even further.”

Stuart Kiwanis ClubThe group worked with the Gertrude Walden Child Care Center to provide a distribution point, asking the director, Thelma Washington, to help with city permits and organizing the giveaways. The day was set and the lines began forming several hours before the 4 p.m. opening.

“It was something, for sure,” Wigley said.

Every car through the line received a hot meal for each family member. The club also provided groceries including rice, beans, milk, eggs, spaghetti, peanut butter, jelly, cereal and bread. Drivers were asked to pop their trunks to receive the groceries, keeping everyone within social distancing guidelines.

“We also put something in each bag for the children,” said Fisher. “I had collected books for the little library, so we put in a book, some crayons, a yo-yo, something kids could use for quiet play.”

The mother-daughter duo said working on the project brought them joy.  

Fisher says the club has several more events planned for this year and hopes to build a playground next year. She’s already committed to a second term as president and has lots of projects in mind.  

The club has been successful in attracting new members, including younger members. She’s hopeful that trend will continue when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“You get out of it what you put it in to it,” Wigley said. “I feel so lucky to be involved with a Kiwanis club.”

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