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February 14, 2003


Gleaning yields 90,000 plus pounds for needy

Photo by Jan Lichtenwalter     

Volunteers unload citrus Jan. 25 at First United Methodist Church, Titusville, the drop zone for the seventh annual gleaning event, coordinated by the church. The fruit will be distributed by Society of St. Andrew, which called the gleaning one of the largest in the country.
By Jan Lichtenwalter

TITUSVILLE — In spite of record-breaking cold weather, United Methodists from a dozen Brevard County churches, along with throngs of other volunteers, gleaned more than 90,000 pounds of citrus Jan. 25. The fruit was trucked to several locations in Appalachia and within Florida through the Society of Saint Andrew (SOSA) network.

The annual event, coordinated by First United Methodist Church here, rallied more than 200 volunteers for the one-day effort, described by SOSA as one of the largest in the country. Numerous youth groups, including one from Debary, assisted in gleaning the fruit from 200 sites, including local groves and the backyards of homeowners. The harvest was done in the biblical spirit of collecting food left in the fields and making it available to the less fortunate.

Many local middle and high school students contributed to the day’s success, as did residents of several retirement communities in the area, and even residents of a nearby marina.

Freezing temperatures Jan. 23 and 24 threatened crops throughout Florida, but Central Florida citrus was spared loss by temperatures that did not hover below the dangerous point.

Volunteers from First, Titusville’s, United Methodist Women and Missions groups prepared breakfast for the gleaners, who began arriving before 8 a.m. They also served 200 lunches to gleaners who returned to the church after working throughout the morning. Others worked throughout the day picking, unloading and reloading fruit, operating forklifts, and assisting donors who dropped off their fruit already gleaned from their trees. By 6 p.m. workers had been sent to all homeowners and grove owners who had offered their fruit, and the trucks arranged by SOSA pulled away loaded with citrus cargo.

Suntree United Methodist Church in Viera also served as a collection point, with one of the trucks picking up the first part of its load there.

“We do what we do without expectation of thanks from those who receive these blessings of citrus that we take for granted,” Kurt Erlenbach, chair of the coordinating committee for the project, said. The citrus is distributed when it arrives at its destination points to food pantries, community centers, nursing facilities and children’s homes.

“We can be grateful that we have been part of this ancient biblical practice of gleaning,” said the Rev. David Waller, pastor at First, Titusville, who noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 20 percent of the food grown in this country goes to waste. “We have been given the privilege of providing help and hope through the gift of citrus to those whose faces and names we do not know.”

“I was touched by the total health of this day, not only the good nutrition in fruit for the body, but also by the healthy involvement of volunteers of all ages from the congregation and community,” Barbara Borman, congregational nurse at First, Titusville, said. “Volunteering is healthy! There were dozens who thanked us as they came back in for another gleaning assignment, flushed with the joy of real giving.”

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