OKEECHOBEE – Our Village Okeechobee and United Against Poverty partnered to offer a mobile market to families in Okeechobee on Jan. 4. Over 400 local families participated in the event.
Volunteers gathered at Abiding Hope church located at 4550 Hwy 441 N, to help distribute food boxes to families between 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Boxes of food like milk, vegetables, eggs and other household products sometimes totaling over $40 in value were sold in a box for $5.
“Anybody can come, it really equalizes things for people who are in need,” said Our Village founder Leah Suarez. “One of the things about being in poverty is the embarrassment and shame that comes with it. A lot of us are in the same boat.”
The mobile market is designed to avoid as much contact as possible with COVID-19 still tearing through the community. In fact, some of the regular volunteers at Our Village weren’t able to help at the Jan. 4 event due to a possible exposure to the virus. Still, the non-profit found a way to make sure everyone who came out to Abiding Hope was served.
Those in need would first park near the church before being directed by a volunteer to drive to a station where the vehicle would be marked for what they intended to get. After that the vehicle would pull up to the next station, open their trunk, and volunteers would load in the boxes of food and home goods they had purchased.
There’s no need to preregister or call ahead. Just show up to the church and volunteers would take care of the rest.
“When school’s not in session we have a lot of kids who come out to help,” said Suarez of the volunteers. “When you’re old you don’t want to unload a tractor trailer. We have a few new volunteers today, but a lot of them have been at a couple food trucks. It’s not very difficult once you get here and are acclimated to it.”
“We have jobs for everybody,” continued Suarez. “We have a veteran who is an amputee helping direct traffic. We even have elderly who help prepare the boxes by putting something like a bag of grapes in each box, which doesn’t require heavy lifting. We can use everyone.”
The next mobile market is scheduled for Feb. 1 and will be held at Abiding Hope again. To keep track of when the mobile markets will occur or to volunteer to help out check out Our Village Okeechobee’s official Facebook page.