Community was more than just a word Saturday as volunteers in Flagler County helped provide hundreds of local families with food.

It was a day of abundance as volunteers stepped up to help their neighbors across four locations in Flagler County on May 2. Providing thousands of meals for families, it was the meaning of community on full display.


In the county’s largest city with an estimated 90,000 residents, the “Mayor’s Feed Palm Coast” initiative saw the City of Palm Coast partnering with Parkview Church to supply a week’s worth of groceries for 5,000 families.


Raising more than $100,000 for the effort to purchase groceries from Second Harvest Food Bank in conjunction with Grace Community Food Pantry’s Pastor Charles Silano, it was a banner day for those on site, like Lisa Asbill, the city’s customer service supervisor, who has been at City Hall accepting donations of food and cash for the past two weeks.


“It’s been rewarding,” said Asbill, who was among the team first to greet the 1,591 vehicles that came through the City Hall site. Each vehicle was greeted with a festive bucket of sweets courtesy of the Palm Coast Walmart in an effort to help lift spirits.


“We’ve gotten a lot of calls on our customer service line and we’ve gotten them resources, but people can’t leave their house because they’re not well, and when the mayor heard a lot of that happening, that was her first priority – we need to collect food, we need to do this,” Asbill said.


Families arriving for help were personally greeted by Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, along with representatives from the Flagler County Commission, Bunnell City Commission and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, presenting a unified message to the community: “We are with you.”


“We’ve partnered with Pastor Silano, who has access to larger buying power than we would normally have, so we’ve been able to utilize his services as well and have bought in bulk,” Holland said of the massive efforts to secure food.


“Pastor Greg (Peters) also has extraordinary buying power with his relationships, so we just kept drawing down on the funds that were contributed. We’ve more than exceeded our goal,” she said.


Simultaneously across town, Parkview Church Lead Pastor Greg Peters and 75 parishioners began serving the long lines early to meet the demand, and by day’s end had served 1,684 cars, many with multiple families in each vehicle, who were able to take home a week’s worth of groceries.


Drawing on his faith and referencing the Biblical story of two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 people, Peters said the day’s abundance was a blessing to the volunteers serving and the recipients.


“This is what taking the five loaves and two fishes and feeding the 5,000 means, because there is no way one person can do it,” said Peters. “The Lord just multiplied the efforts of so many people. It’s been an amazing experience.”


Peters said this is the third food giveaway the church has done since the coronavirus pandemic surfaced and the church will continue to be of service by holding biweekly food pantries to help the community.


“The blessing is, if there is food left over, that’s what we’re going to be using at our next drive-thru food experiences,” said Peters, whose church assisted more than 1,000 families between the first two food drives. “It really is mind-boggling. What I see is people who have a desire to love their neighbor as themselves.”


Across the county, the line for food assistance snaked down U.S. 1 to Whiteview Parkway on Saturday as those in need of food waited patiently to arrive at the food depot for the Grace Community Food Pantry. Volunteers worked tirelessly to place fresh fruits, produce and non-perishables into the cars of hundreds on Saturday.


Grace Leven, one of the team leaders for the pantry was not surprised by the need, as she’s seen a recent uptick in requests for assistance.


“I’d say the past five or six weeks it’s been much more,” said Leven. “We would do 375-400 on a Saturday and the same on Sunday, that was a normal day. Now with the pandemic, we’re up to 500 families on a Saturday and a Sunday.”


Across the bridge in Flagler Beach, it was Mayor Linda Provencher and a group of volunteers that hosted both a food pickup location serving 200 families and a food delivery brigade for 100 families in the town of 5,000 residents.


Supported by donations and volunteers from the Flagler Womans Club and support from Silano and the Grace Community Food Pantry, Provencher was grateful to see her community cared for by friends and neighbors.


“Our community is amazing. I asked for volunteers and had so many step up,” said Provencher. “Everyone worked so hard but left with our hearts full. You really see what a need there is for this right now.”


Pastor Silano said it’s relationships that made assisting in the collaborative success of Saturday possible.


“I have longstanding relationships with multiple food banks and their various programs for securing food,” Silano said. “That said, during these times, there are many noble agencies trying to get food for the same cause as us. I was able to purchase 10,000 pounds of food for Feed Palm Coast, I ordered a food drop for Flagler Beach, which fed 400 or more, and managed to distribute 40,000 pounds at our main location over Saturday and Sunday. All told, we served more than 1,500 families. This so far, is the new normal.”