ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Saturday, Heart of Florida United Way distributed 4,000 thanksgiving meal kits to families across Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in the fourth iteration of its annual Thanksgiving Project at Valencia College West.
United Way told News 6 the 4,000 Thanksgiving meal kits it distributed were the most it’s ever given out for thanksgiving, adding the goal next year is to increase that number.
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Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way, said that across Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, about 46% of families — or 350,000 households — are struggling to make ends meet. He said on average, a family of four needs to make about $96,000 a year just for their basic needs, according to the ALICE survival budget.
“So we’re serving ALICE families, (meaning) asset limited, income constrained, employed,” Hayward said. “These are people living paycheck to paycheck, barely able to support their basic needs.”
Vanessa Freeman was all smiles Saturday. She said picking up a meal kit for her family ahead of Thanksgiving next week truly made her day.
“I just retired, my income is short, so I’m very, very thankful (for) me and my family,” Freeman said. “I have a big family and they need to be fed so I appreciate y’all doing this for us.”
Ashley Robbins picked up a Thanksgiving meal kit for her 73-year-old grandmother.
“She doesn’t have a way to be able to get out, so us being able to bring her food in, it’s a blessing,” Robbins said.
8-year-old Audrey Newell joined volunteers Saturday at the distribution. Her goal this holiday season, she said, is putting a smile on families’ faces.
“A like it when people are happy and joyful,” Newell said.
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