- January 2, 2020
With the help of several Longboat Key volunteers, one Sarasota organization is able to keep serving its people even as more need help due to hardships from the coronavirus.
Second Chance Last Opportunity, a nonprofit organization that helps with education and counseling, is the focus of a web of Longboat Key volunteers who are using their friends and connections to make sure the place doesn’t run out of food, masks, diapers and other supplies. Typically, the organization does not focus primarily on giving people food, but instead on education and getting people back on their feet. Now, director April Glasco sees over 200 people in her food pick-up lines, which happen twice a week.
“Our mission is to provide a gateway of hope for individuals who come through with an immediate need, those struggling with mental health or something they need right away and don’t know where to go,” Glasco said. “Second Chance is here to give them back that strength to keep going.”
The first volunteer on Longboat Key to set things in motion was Fran Van Zandt, who contacted her group of tennis players and neighbors to see what they could bring to the organization. They began donating and bringing supplies, including baby items and masks.
“The tennis group is still doing that,” Van Zandt said. “Today’s (April 29) delivery was baby things because we heard there was a need for diapers. Other times it was paper goods and food.”
As Van Zandt reached out to more and more people, the efforts began to snowball.
“The list grew among my neighbors, my neighbor’s friends, and mainly our tennis group, who on their own went out to April's (Second Chance Last Opportunity) and more of them brought stuff to my house here,” Van Zandt said. “I met her (Glasco) and loaded my car several times now. And then next thing I heard from Arlene (Skversky), who was on the master list.”
Skversky began sending out emails to everyone she knew to try to maximize the help. She got a $500 donation from the Longboat Key Democratic Club and began shopping for the organization with her husband and friends. At first, she bought 25 rotisserie chickens, thinking that would be enough for a while. Now, she’s helped raise over $2,000, gone shopping, brought donations to Second Chance Last Opportunity multiple times and helped create a bucket brigade of volunteers on the island.
Anthony Kahn heard of the need through Skversky and has been in charge of picking up produce to bring to the organization before its Friday pick-ups. He visits Jessica’s Organic Farm, where the owners fill his SUV with produce he’s purchased, as well as anything else they’d otherwise have to plow under and waste.
“I think there have been a lot more people who just they went on their own because they were also curious wanted to see how it worked,” Kahn said. “People contribute in a different way. Others leave things (to donate) by my car on Thursday night or Friday morning.”
Francine Achbar, who lives at Promenade, began a team of volunteers along with Jeanne Guertin-Potoff and between them they found that they knew most of the people in the community. Many wanted to join the shopping team, but others who didn’t feel comfortable going out more than they needed to would donate money instead.
“In our first week we raised $1400, but as you know from Arlene, it goes fast,” Achbar wrote in an email.
The challenge now is how to keep it going. Money dries up quickly when trying to feed hundreds of people, but the volunteers have gotten creative in how they help and are determined to keep it going. Skversky asked Publix to let her pick up their discarded bakery items to bring to the mainland instead of throwing them away, resulting in another donation on May 4. Their efforts have reached beyond the island, as Skversky’s cousin Wendy Wicks has begun a web of volunteers in her Sarasota community. She’s since gotten food dropped off at her door that she takes to Second Chance Last Opportunity.
“The immediate focus is food, but the focus of what April is doing is to help everyone grow, become strong, self-assured (first they have to realize they deserve to have a SELF), and be self-sustaining for themselves and their families,” Skversky wrote in an email.