spring hill thanksgiving community dinner
At the Spring Hill Thanksgiving Community Dinner, Dr. Joyce M. Cusack Resource Center Administrative Director Shilretha Dixon offers a holiday meal cooked up by the community. In back, helping serve, are Phosphoria Hill and Marjorie Ross. More than 450 people stopped by the event to accept gifts of free food, blankets, clothing and shoes.

Thanksgiving kicks off a season of giving across the country, and local charities say they could use a hand.

Since 2020, many West Volusia residents depending on food pantries and other charitable offerings cited the COVID-19 pandemic as why they needed a hand up. 

Now, even with the worst of the pandemic seemingly in the rearview mirror, too many people are still strapped for cash.

“That’s actually what it is, the inflation,” DeLand-based Salvation Army Social Services Director Rodney Mintz told The Beacon. “A lot of people I’ve never seen before are coming because they just can’t keep up with the prices.”

Many thought 2022 would see a diminishing of need in the community after the need for basics like food and shelter spiked with the onset of the pandemic, but Mintz said the need, instead, has increased this year over last year, although not by a significant margin. He said rising costs are to blame.

Between September 2021 and September 2022, the Salvation Army distributed 6,343 pounds of food, 2,040 bags of food, 253 bags designed for homeless people — including hygiene kits — and 1,631 hot meals at community lunches. 

One big impact on people, Backpack Buddies Founder Kelli Marks said, is increasing food costs.

“We are seeing the working poor in need more and more,” she said. 

Backpack Buddies is an Orange City-based charity focused on feeding school-age children and their families. 

With those costs up, donations have decreased, too, Marks said.

“Donations have slowed down and we really could use monetary donations to help with the high food costs,” she said. “Our kids pack program alone costs approximately $3,500 every week.”

Housing costs are also pressing families, The Salvation Army’s Mintz said.

“It’s really hard. For a one-bedroom, it’s anywhere from $1,300 to $1,600 [a month]. A lot of people are homeless because they just can’t afford that,” he said. 

In Northwest Volusia, in communities like Pierson, the need is great, too, and transportation plays a factor.

“Pierson doesn’t have, like Ormond or Daytona, a grocery store. There’s no super Walmart there. There’s no Winn Dixie there,” Mamie Oatis told The Beacon. “A lot of the people have to travel. If they’re going to get groceries they have to go to DeLand or DeLeon.”

Oatis is the community director at Food Brings Hope, a nonprofit organization that serves children and families with food and educational services across Volusia and Flagler counties. 

The organization specifically targets Northwest Volusia with its Pierson Pantry program, which provides an estimated 160,000 pounds of food annually, she said. 

The need, she said, has been especially great this year among seniors, working families and the homeless.

It’s similar in Deltona.

Dot Bradley, the director at New Hope Human Services Inc., said her organization is seeing a similar increase in demand even during their regular weekly food pantry times.

“There has been a definite increase,” Bradley said. “Over 200 [people] on a standard Wednesday.”

She encouraged anyone who wants to help to give to charities like New Hope Human Services so they can feed everyone this holiday season.

“We are neighbors, all of us,” Bradley said. “We’re all in this together. We’ve got to help each other.”

Charities across Volusia County could use extra donations to help during the holiday season. Check out the charities’ websites for information about where to donate food, money and more.

How to help

  • The West Volusia County Salvation Army — Donations can be brought to 1240 S. High St. in DeLand.
  • Backpack Buddies — The group may be contacted at 386-218-5776. For more information or to donate, visit the organization’s website at www.backpackbuddiesoc.com.
  • New Hope Human Services — Donations can be brought to the organization’s headquarters at 2855 Lake Helen Osteen Road in Deltona. For more information, visit New Hope’s website at www.nhhsdeltona.org.
  • The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia — For information about how to donate to The Neighborhood Center, visit their website at www.neighborhoodcenterwv.org.
  • Food Brings Hope — For information about how to donate to Food Brings Hope, visit the organization’s website at www.foodbringshope.org


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