Meals on Wheels Plus Manatee collects stuffed shoeboxes at Lakewood Ranch Elks Club to deliver to seniors during the holidays.
Sitting in a van half filled with packed shoeboxes, Bryan Lipps echoed the thoughts of all his fellow Meals on Wheels Plus Manatee workers.
"People rally," said Lipps, the vice president of strategic programs for Meals on Wheels Plus. "They come through."
Lipps was feeling optimistic because one of the two vans Meals on Wheels Plus brought to the Lakewood Ranch Elks Club for the annual Shoebox Collection Dec. 5 was filling up quickly only 15 minutes into the event. A stream of cars pulled up just outside the Elks parking lot to use the arranged non-contact, drive-thru, drop-off event.
The Elks paired with Meals On Wheels Plus last year for the first time and collected enough shoeboxes to serve more than 900 homebound seniors as 300 people attended the event inside the lodge. For many of those seniors who benefit, the shoeboxes might be the only gift they receive during the holiday season. Shoeboxes include items such as pens, notepads, puzzles, slippers and bathroom items. Donors from the community put about 10 items in each shoebox and they are delivered to shut-ins.
The pandemic caused Meals on Wheels and the Elks to change how they hosted the event.
"We have pivoted all our operations," said Maribeth Phillips, the CEO and president of Meals on Wheels Plus. "This event is just another example. We had to think how we could deliver an event the community loves while keeping everyone safe. We know these shoeboxes bring people joy and we know we have many more seniors this year who are self-isolated."
Brett Davis, a past district deputy for the Elks, said a lot of club members dropped off shoeboxes in advance of the event this year. He said the club, featuring free food and a free cocktail, was open Dec. 5 to anyone who donated a shoebox. Temperatures were taken before anyone could enter the club and masks were required.
Davis said the Elks like hosting the event and hope to make it an annual affair.
Anyone who would still like to drop off shoeboxes can do so at the Daybreak Adult Day Center, 10920 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch. For more information, send an email to [email protected].