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For a child, food security is the first ingredient to healthy physical, emotional and intellectual development. Yet for too many children, a predictable meal schedule is a luxury. In Hernando County, Florida, Operation HeartF.E.L.T. (Feeding Empty Little Tummies) is doing something about it. At maximum financial capacity with its board on a fully-volunteer basis, this nonprofit serves half of all the schools in the county – they hope to serve all the children in the region who need it. Killingsworth Agency, in the county’s largest town of Brooksville, is one of Operation HeartF.E.L.T.’s most ardent supporters.
Putting anything and everything into the cause
Since Operation HeartF.E.L.T. was founded in 2009, Killingsworth has been there to volunteer time, funds, staff and even real estate to the important cause of feeding Hernando County’s children. In fact, nearly half the agency regularly volunteers, packing and delivering weekly food backpacks, taking part in fundraisers and donating and collecting food.
“Whenever there’s something that needs to be done for Operation HeartF.E.L.T., there is always someone here at the agency who steps up and volunteers,” said Danielle Healis, a Managing Partner at Killingsworth Agency and a board member for Operation HeartF.E.L.T.
“Whenever there’s something that needs to be done, there is always someone here at the agency who steps up and volunteers.”
-Danielle Healis, Managing Partner, Killingsworth Agency
Every meal has the power to change a life
This organization has seen meteoric growth over the last decade. They’ve ballooned from providing weekly meals for six families at a single school to a local mainstay that supports 300 families a week. This highlights a sad but valid truth: these services are essential. Regardless of how big that number gets however, the Killingsworth team has never lost sight of the human impact of each donated food-filled backpack.
“A young boy sitting in the audience at one of our school presentations came up afterwards to ask me for a hug,” said Healis. “He thanked us, sharing that his family did not have much money – that if it wasn’t for his backpack, he wouldn’t have a lot to eat.”
There’s no pandemic shutdown for hunger
In Florida, more rapid school re-openings and furloughed parents mean even more children in need of food. Operation HeartF.E.L.T. has been firing on all cylinders throughout the pandemic to meet this need, but has had to shift efforts completely to donations.
“The idea that children in our own community are hungry is unthinkable to me. No child in this country or in our community should ever worry about food,” said Pattie Stepbach, Chairperson of Operation HeartF.E.L.T. “COVID-19 has impacted our fundraising opportunities so any donations we receive will go a long way.”
“The idea that children in our own community are hungry is unthinkable to me.”
-Pattie Stepbach, Chairperson, Operation HeartF.E.L.T.