FORT MYERS, Fla. (July 10, 2013) – A Southwest Florida nonprofit started 18 years ago by concerned citizens to supply food free of charge to help feed the hungry and disadvantaged will be rolling its services into a larger nonprofit for the benefit of its service organizations and volunteers.

On Monday, July 15, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wake Up America of Southwest Florida, Inc. will be hosting a celebration luncheon at the Harry Chapin Food Bank located at 3760 Fowler Street in Fort Myers to introduce all of its volunteers, agencies and other interested parties to its new, improved operations.

Wake Up America is a Fort Myers nonprofit agency that supplied food free of charge to nearly 100 local social service organizations. Run entirely by volunteers, Wake Up America recruited and organized area residents to pick up quality surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from stores and manufacturers and delivered it to a central distribution center in downtown Fort Myers. There, the goods were made available to agencies that serve the hungry and disadvantaged free of charge.

According to Belinda Harper, board president of Wake Up America, during the past several years, many of the stores and wholesalers changed their policies on the type of items they donate to Wake Up America.

“The nutritious items such as fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. have been redirected and are no longer available to us,” she said. “Our staples like breads and pastries have continued, and we have been very blessed to receive these items.”

Due to these changes and the increased challenges of securing funding, Wake Up America’s board of directors gathered in June and unanimously voted to cease operation as it has been running. Going forward, the Harry Chapin Food Bank will be providing all of Wake Up America’s agencies a wide variety of healthy food choices.

“I strongly believe any opportunity for Wake Up America and the Harry Chapin Food Bank to work together is a positive thing,” said Bob Kaye, Wake Up America board member. “The food bank compliments so well what we have tried to do for so long, and any services it continues to provide for us under the auspices of its organization will be of great service to the community and will continue to fulfill our mission.”

“We have committed to working with Wake Up America to minimize the impact of its change in operations,” said Al Brislain, president of the Harry Chapin Food Bank. “We want to help avoid any disruption of services during this transition period. By working together, we will continue to be able to feed hungry people in need in Lee County.”

Under the new arrangement, the Harry Chapin Food Bank will serve as the collection and distribution site for Wake Up America’s volunteers and agencies to drop off and pick up bread and other products.

Brislain added that more than 60 percent of the agencies Wake Up America currently serves are also already receiving food from Harry Chapin.

“Gratefully, Harry Chapin exists because it allows our volunteers and those that we serve to maintain the quality of food we have been providing,” said longtime Wake Up America volunteer Carole Brotherton. “Without them, a lot of people would go hungry and the agencies wouldn’t have food they need. It’s good that we have someone with Harry Chapin’s quality to continue to serve the community.”

Since 1983, the Harry Chapin Food Bank has served as the only food bank in Southwest Florida. On an annual basis, Harry Chapin provides more than 16.6 million pounds of nutritious, quality food to more than 150 partner agencies that provide direct services to those in need including nonprofit organizations, church food pantries, neighborhood centers, a Kids Café, low-income housing sites, senior nutrition centers, family crisis centers, group homes, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs, day care centers, rehabilitation facilities and disaster relief agencies.

The final day for Wake Up America at its current facility will be Friday, July 26.

“We are so grateful to the entire community for its many years of loyal support,” said Tommy Wiley, Wake Up America board member and son of co-founder and longtime supporter Dr. Thomas M. Wiley Jr. “Without them none of this would have been possible and the thousands of people we have served may have gone without meals.”