The FAITH Neighborhood Center (FNC) celebrated its first anniversary at its new 6000 sq. ft. location at 14727 Timber Village Road, Groveland, FL on January 2. This past year was probably the most dramatic one for the 45-year-old organization. In the first month, it doubled the number of families serviced. It went from serving an average of 350 families per month in 2016 to serving 650 by the end of January 2017. This growth continued across the year, and in December 2017, the Center provided food support to 865 families.

This growth led the FNC to focus on its core competencies, which are Feed And Instruct The Hungry. This focus made the FNC well-positioned to function as an emergency food distribution center for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after Hurricane Irma hit Central Florida, in September. The Center distributed food and water to support 1290 individuals immediately impacted by the storm.

In addition to its growing capability to address regional food insecurity, the Center developed its instructional skills by liaising with organizations interested in delivering computer literacy and special needs training.

The BOD decision to focus on the core Feeding and Instruction missions meant closing the Center’s Clothing section at the end of 2017, to the dismay of long-serving volunteers in the FNC. Offering no-cost clothing was an effort to help clients stretch their food dollars.   Space previously dedicated to clothing services will now be used to manage a summer foods program for children otherwise helped with school lunch programs.  Additional space will be used to bring social service resources, currently based in central and northern Lake County, down to those with needs in south Lake County. But we haven’t forgotten the help that free clothing provides, so we are now directing our clients to one of several organizations, like the Edge Memorial United Methodist Church in Groveland, that now have free ‘clothing closets’. This will help to mitigate the loss of the FNC’s clothing program. As part of their social service referral capabilities, Center staff are also developing coupon programs with south Lake County agencies like New Beginnings.

The FNC Board and Center staff is continuing to refine policies and operating guidance designed to increase help and services for those in need here in south Lake County. For more information about the FNC, visit their website at www.FAITHneighborhoodcenter.com or call 352-429-1200.