- December 1, 2021
Maribeth Phillips, the CEO of Meals on Wheels Plus, looked around at the crowd gathered at The Grande Clubhouse at the Lake Club Dec. 2 and started to become emotional.
The event was the 13th annual Community Shoe Box Drive and Reception and it was apparent more than 1,500 homebound seniors in Manatee County were going to get presents due to the generosity of those attending the event.
"I'm feeling overwhelmed, and happy," Phillips said. "I think we're doing even better than last year, when we brought more than 1,000 homebound seniors gifts. We're going to have more than 1,500 this year.
"We have so many volunteers, and it is so great seeing the community come together."
Phillips noted it might be the only gift many of those homebound seniors receive before Christmas, and it also might be one of the only visitors they welcome at their home. Meals on Wheels Plus volunteers hand deliver all the gifts.
Tara Preserve's Sharon Zawadski, who said she is an occasional volunteer for Meals on Wheels Plus, said the volunteers are wonderful, but that it all comes together because of Phillips relentless work.
"Maribeth is amazing," Zawadski said. "She is just a great girl. This is all so fantastic because this is needed so much."
Lakewood Ranch Communities donated the use of The Grande Clubhouse and Phillips said it was key. "The venue helped bring more people out," she said.
Guests either donated $20 at the reception or filled a shoe box with presents.
“This is the 13th year we have connected our community through a small but truly meaningful holiday gesture," Phillips said.
Each shoe box, which is identified as male, female or non-gender specific, is filled typically with more than 10 items. Popular items include chapstick, flashlights, hand lotion/moisturizers, holiday trinkets, mechanical pencils, notepads, pens, paperback puzzles, shampoo, slipper socks and holiday cards.