Originally aired/published on ActionNewsJax.com. Click image to watch full segment.
By Alicia Tarancon
Jacksonville, Fla. – Hunger doesn’t take a holiday.
In fact, the demand at local food pantries is only increasing as families gather this holiday season and schools go on break.
The Catholic Charities Food Pantry at the St. Pius V Catholic Church is helping at least 500 families in time for Christmas.
Stacie Tillman is a local grandmother of three from Sherwood Forest. She has picked up food from the Catholic Charities food pantry in the past but on Wednesday, she also received a heartwarming surprise — Christmas presents for her family.
Action News Jax watched as volunteers packed up bags of toys that mom and dad can put under the Christmas tree.
“It means a blessing to me from God,” Tillman said.
Each family is also taking home a delicious holiday meal so they can have a brighter Christmas.
“I can’t wait for the smoked turkey,” Tillman laughed.
Some families waited in line as early as 5:30 a.m. Volunteers with the nonprofit are loading up cars with 80 pounds of food to help feed these families in need.
Nicola Barnack, the director of development with Catholic Charities, tells us that the need has only gone up. The nonprofit said there has been a 45% increase in the total number of people at its food pantry alone.
“I’ve had more of our case-workers ask, you know, if they squeeze one more client into our list of clients, we’re able to provide for,” Barnack said.
For grandmothers like Tillman who are struggling to keep their families fed, the hard work of the volunteers here doesn’t go unnoticed.
“I thank God for Catholic Charities. I thank God for the volunteers. I thank God for the help,” Tillman said.
Catholic Charities helps families year-round, not just during the holidays. The nonprofit said it’s also in need of more volunteers.