Locals Helping Locals

A Look Inside The Cape Coral 
Caring Center

“We didn’t even have green beans and corn!” When she first came to the tiny Cape Coral Caring Center in the summer of 2000 as operations manager, Julie Ferguson found empty shelves; a circumstance she says is not unusual for food pantries during summertime.

She knew she had to get the community more involved. “However,” she recalls, “I didn’t know anybody.” She started attending Chamber luncheons, joined the leadership program and began meeting with community leaders.

Now executive director of the Center, Ferguson has built a network of support. Civic and fraternal organizations, churches, schools, businesses, government agencies, and individuals have come on board her ‘little engine that could.’

Supporters hold food drives and sponsor events to collect food and money for the Center. Ferguson explains, “It all comes in the door and goes right back out to residents of Cape Coral who have fallen on hard times.” Sudden illness, medical bills, job loss, or cessation of the school free lunch program in summertime, can get a family into financial trouble. Last summer, we gave out 1,285 Healthy Not Hungry Kids bagged lunches.”

“Our clients come to us in emergency situations. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve asked for help. One client said to me, ‘I never thought I’d end up here.’ We understand, and treat our clients with kindness and respect.

In 2015, the Center distributed 143 tons of food with the help of its supporters, volunteers, and its staff of three ─ Ferguson, Wendy Wootton, Operations Manager and Wanda Carlson, Administrative Assistant. That same year, the Center paid $11,746 in electric bills for families without electricity, handed out 271 clothing vouchers and 32 thirty-one day free bus passes. A client, who used her bus pass to look for a job, later contacted the Center to tell them she’d gotten the job and had recently been promoted to Supervisor.

Another client showed up at her workplace and discovered, posted on the door, a sign that read: “Closed for two weeks.” Distraught, she had no idea how she was going to pay her bills and feed her children. She turned to the folks at the Center, who helped her through the crisis.

At Christmastime, Wootton suggested the Center have a Christmas Santa party. Nick Muhlenbruch and his wife, Val, costumed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, entertained children inside The First Congregational Church while parents picked up toys at the back door. The party resulted in 132 needy families having presents for their children on Christmas morning.

We’ll always be a food pantry,” says Ferguson. “In the future I’d like to add a facility which focuses on job placement.” In addition, she envisions, “A separate place where people who are hungry can come in, sit down with a volunteer, have a meal and just talk with somebody.”

Businessman, Chris Spiro, expresses the sentiments of supporters, volunteers and staff of the Center: “We will not allow people to go hungry in this community.”

For information on how you can help or how to get help, visit the Center’s website: CapeCoralCaringCenter.org. or call 239.945.1927