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United Way Day of Bagging Beans Will Feed Thousands

Original Source - News Press

by Ben Brasch

Cliff Smith, president of Southwest Florida's United Way chapter, had 200 volunteers laboring all day Saturday in Fort Myers.

And all of them were working for beans.

The volunteers were bagging 8,000 pounds of pinto beans for the Harry Chapin Food Bank to distribute throughout the summer.

Smith said the summer is most difficult time for food pantries to keep up with demand because student who normally would have at least one meal covered by reduced or free school lunches are out of school. And still hungry.

"This is when all of the pantry shelves get tight," he said.

Smith said the group chose beans for reasons. "There seems to be a real demand for beans because the community wants them and they how how to cook them."

The United Way region Smith is president of encompasses Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee counties.

The beans were donated by Enterprise Holdings, parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car.

The bean-bagging event was part of national United Way Day of Action and held at the local chapter's main campus in the Harlem Heights neighborhood of Fort Myers.

United Way staff said the work Saturday will result in nearly 26,720 meals.

Volunteers pour, measure and weigh before bagging and boxing pinto beans during the United Way Day of Action Saturday.

Volunteers worked in shifts throughout the day. Jessica Catti was on bagging duty Saturday afternoon.

"When you help the United Way, you help a lot of other organizations, too," said Catti, who works at FineMark National Bank & Trust.

Nia Osaze, graduate student at Hodges University in Fort Myers, couldn't get boxes to fill with bags quick enough.

"We're loving it. It's a lot of fun," said Diane Connell, 51, who with her 17-year-old daughter Kelly Connell, was working with Osaze to fill those boxes.

Connell, a member of Kiwanis Club of Fort Myers Metro-McGregor, held the bags as her daughter poured the pound of beans through a yellow funnel.

"It's a well-spent two hours on a Saturday," Connell said.