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Thanksgiving food drive helps 565 families in Columbia County

Prior to the event, food had to be sorted and re-bagged. This huge box was filled to the top with various canned goods. As student volunteers emptied the contents, it became too far for them to reach the cans towards the bottom, so Amani Tunsil, a government student from Lake City Middle School, jumped inside the huge cardboard container to fish the rest of them out. -Photo: Submitted

By Tami Stevenson

Lake City, Fla., – Catholic Charities of Lake City, along with 90 plus volunteers, Thursday, helped 565 struggling families throughout Columbia County have a better Thanksgiving meal this year.

The organization has been doing this for the past 22 years and as Suzanne Edwards, Catholic Charities Regional Director puts it, “It’s nothing short of amazing!”

It is the result of the commitment and dedication by the many local businesses, schools and individuals that collect the food, donate gift cards and volunteer to help distribute it each year.

The food baskets typically contain four canned goods, instant mashed potatoes, dressing, browny mix, cornbread, gravy mix, fresh produce, etc., basically, many of the food items for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. They also received a gift card to get the meat of their choice at Publix, Walmart or Winn Dixie. Edwards said the meat vouchers were for $10 and $20, depending on the size of the family.

Although the main benefit is aimed at helping families in need, another reward goes to the volunteers, especially student volunteers. They are privileged to see the virtue in helping others. It teaches them that community involvement and charity are worthwhile and rewarding, especially when they see a family that is truly thankful for the help they are receiving. It makes all the difference.

Edwards said that during the month of October, all of the public schools in Columbia County and three private schools conducted food drives during that time. Dianna Swisher, the Columbia County School District’s Volunteer and Marketing Coordinator, worked hand in hand with Edwards, implementing the collection of canned goods within the school system.

“They do this every year and it’s a competition between classrooms and then between schools. It’s so wonderful that they do that and are giving back to the community,” she said.

“What is even greater is students get their service and time and get out of the classroom and come into the warehouse to sort the food, re-bag it, and then, Thursday, some of them were here giving the food out.” Edwards continued, “What closes the loop for them is all of those baskets went to families within each of those schools. The guidance counselors chose who received the baskets because they know the families and those that are struggling.”

Edwards added, “Catholic Charities specifically wants to praise the individuals and civic organizations for their donations of canned goods and gift cards. They are crucial in helping us meet and exceed the needs of Columbia County residents during this Thanksgiving Basket Food Drive.”

The organization has been in the forefront of working towards “Transforming Lives” and is committed to serving those in need through their food pantry, rent and utility assistance and homeless services, not only during the holiday season, but 365 days a year.
For more information or to donate, please visit

Volunteers loading vehicles with Thanksgiving baskets last Thursday in Lake City. -Photo: Submitted

Suzanne Edwards, Cheryl Tuombly DCF community development administrator, Circuits 3 and 8, DCF Regional Managing Director Mario Rubio (Senator Marco Rubio’s brother), Xaviera a, NE Region Family Safety Community Service Director. she works in Lake City,
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L-R: Dr. Edwin Gonzalez, Suzanne M. Edwards, Regional Director, Jonathan Buckles, Benefits Coordinator, HR Director at Florida Gateway College Cassie Buckles and Dr. Lawrence Barrett, President, Florida Gateway College. -Courtesy Photo

Dr. Griffin along with her team of volunteers from Hearing Life collected food and helped during distribution. -Courtesy Photo

A large container of donated canned goods before sorting.
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Volunteers loading a vechile, during the food drive.
-Courtesy Photo