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
“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.”