MIDDLEBURG – Families lined up at the American Legion 250 last week for free groceries like bread, fruit and other necessities like soap.
Farm Share is a nonprofit organization that serves 11 counties in Florida, with Clay being one of those counties. For the second time in the area Farm Share, along with veterans from American Legion 250 and volunteers from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the community, provided fresh groceries and toiletries to any and all families, free of charge, with no questions asked.
“We will service well over 300 families and we do so without asking questions about income or need or even without asking for an ID,” Farm Share Representative Leighsha Johnson said. “You never know what predicament someone and their family is in so for us, it’s about simply showing up and helping anyone who comes.”
Johnson said Farm Share has been around since 1991 and has held many events in the area, but this event on Tuesday was the second of its kind. This is because it was put on by Clay County Veteran Services and the men and women of American Legion 250. This post, much like the county’s veteran services, serves veterans and military families in need in any way they can.
“It’s a really good feeling that we’re all feeling today,” American Legion 250 Commander Dick Rowe said. “We are a legion like all of the others, but we’re here for everyone. We’re community based and our goal is to serve the community.”
Rowe worked with Clay County Director of Administration and Contractual Services Karen Thomas to make the event happen. Thomas said when Clay County had learned of Farm Share’s services, she worked to bring the organization to Clay County as she saw a need.
“We have families in Clay County in need of things like this, so it was important for us to get Farm Share out here,” Thomas said. “This is only [our second one] and we hope to continue this partnership to continue providing food to families in need.”
Thomas said the event doubles as a way for community members to give back to the community. Not only were CCSO officers present to help hand out goods, but citizens from all over the county were out, too.
Some of the people behind the donations weren’t on hand, but their presence was felt nonetheless. Gary Newman leads a chapter of Vietnam Veterans at Union Correctional Institute. The veterans are prisoners at the institute, but every year they hold a walkathon to raise money for the community surrounding them.
They raised $3,500 in 2019 and used that money to fund purchases for local schools. They also gave Newman $1,000 and 250 bars of soap to use in the veteran community of Clay County. The soap was given out to everyone.
“I think it’s really commendable on the part of the prisoners wanting to give back,” Newman said. “They are the people behind the soap at the [event].”
Dale Gass was there to pick up things like oranges and soap. He was grateful for the outreach.
“It means a lot to know there’s organizations in the county that have my back,” Gass said. “I don’t know if you can find something like this in other counties and it just goes to show how special Clay County is.”