Basket of blessings

13th annual Feed the Harbor event to feed the multitude

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

It all started with five loaves and two fishes.

The Bible account of Jesus feeding the multitude of followers in the desert was miraculous. His disciples had five loaves and two fishes, yet by the end of the meal, all had been fed and twelves baskets full of fragments were left over. Jesus’ ability to feed the many from such a small contribution of the disciples is one of the most well-known stories in the Christian faith.

The desire of a few to feed the many sparked Feed the Harbor over a decade ago. It didn’t start with loaves or fishes, but rather an aspiration to take small, individual contributions and fill up baskets of blessings for our community. This year’s event, to be held on Feb. 26, marks the 13th annual collection of food and hygiene items to support Charlotte County residents. This one-day event is sponsored by local churches, who take Jesus’ command to love thy neighbor as thyself to heart.

After taking a year off in 2022 due to food shortages, and being just a few months following Hurricane Ian, this year’s collection is more important than ever, and I extend the invitation for you to be part of this modern-day miracle.

The concept is simple. Swing by a participating Publix store between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to get your usual groceries. Pick up a shopping list of requested food and hygiene items. Grab an item to donate (or a basket of items, or a cartful of items!). Let your cashier know which items are for Feed the Harbor. It is that easy!

Cash is accepted as well as items you’ve purchased previously. Simply drop these off at Publix during the designated times.

Publix staff will separate the items that are donated, and local churches will sort the items and load them up for Charlotte County food pantries who have shelves to fill. Your contribution can be large, small or anywhere in-between. By working together, we are crowdsourcing HOPE for our community!

“It’s amazing what people can do when they all come together,” said Christine Wilkens, volunteer for Feed the Harbor.

While we do not live in a desert, many in our community are experiencing food insecurity. Young families are making the choice between quality meals for their children and paying their rent for the month. Retired individuals are making the choice between quality meals and prescription medications. The problem is not new, but it has grown severely in recent months.

Tina Figliuolo, CEO of the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition recently shared that their food pantry has been hit hard. They are serving three times the usual number of individuals and families, and the non-perishable donations from the holiday season have dwindled. Feed the Harbor couldn’t have come at a better time.

When you make your trip to Publix, Christine challenges you to, “get your children involved.” As you shop for your weekly groceries, ask your children to think beyond what they want off the shelf and consider what items can be added to your basket that would be a blessing to someone else.

It all started with five loaves and two fishes, but, oh, what a basket of blessings was available at the end of the story. You can find me on Sunday at the Airport Road Publix until noon. Will I see you, adding a blessing to your shopping basket? Every contribution stays in Charlotte County, helping to feed your friends, family and neighbors. Help us give help, give HOPE through the 2023 Feed the Harbor event.

Participating Publix stores and the requested shopping list are available at

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at