ORLANDO, Fla. -- For almost two decades, an Orlando nonprofit has served the community, connecting needy families with food.
But now, Servant's Heart Ministry is in need of help of its own -- it’s in danger of shutting down services if they don't raise much-needed funds as their lease ends.
- Servant's Heart Ministry in danger of closing
- Nonprofit says they aren't able to pay their lease
- Group raising funds, seeking partnerships
“I know that there’s somebody out there just waiting, some auxiliary space. They’re ready to write that check," said Chloe Battle, a case worker.
Two years ago, Battle stumbled upon the Pine Castle organization, in need of food for a client. She went on to become their operations director, the only paid staffer leading a large team of volunteers.
“I fell in love with the place. (I) loved what they do, loved their mission," Battle said.
What started as a mom-and-pop-type shop out of a Methodist church grew into an indispensable organization, delivering 400 meals to families every other week, leveraging partnerships with grocery stores like Publix and Aldi, and even restaurants like Carrabba’s.
“From there, we have grown over the years, really exploded, been in four different buildings," Battle said. “When our drivers and community partners are going to these families homes, they’re delivering that food. They’re asking them, 'How was your day? Can I take out your garbage?'"
For Sandy Eaton, volunteering with the non-profit is a calling.
“We just got over here and fell in love with it," she said. “We’re just a blessed people so we want to come and give back to someone else, who might need a helping hand.”
Eaton helps out with sorting and processing the massive quantities of food that funnel into the 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse: 1,600 pounds of meat, 3,000 pounds of produce, and 4,000 pounds of dry goods sent with churches, schools and case workers every other week.
On Fridays, she assists out with receptionist duties, manning the non-profit's phones.
“There are some senior citizens in my community that tell me when I bring food to them, ‘You don’t know what this means to me,’" she said.
“The thing that makes us so unique is the fresh food," Battle explained. “A lot goes into packing and sorting, and the gas that it takes to go to grocery stores in our diesel truck.”
Servant's Heart has been working on borrowed time, drawing from a previous capital campaign to keep the lights in the warehouse.
They pay over $3,000 a month in rent, accepting no county or state funding; their lease is up in August and rent will be going up.
To make matters worse, donations are down for the summer. It's an expected dip, but one that Battle says doesn't stop them from meeting the community's need.
“We don’t want to put that money we’re paying for rent not into the food. We want it to go into the food, into the community," she said.
As Servant's Heart seeks out more partnerships, they're also hoping for a miracle, hoping to raise at least $300,000 to find a new space -- or perhaps get one gifted to them.
“I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about us closing down. I think about who is the next person we’re going to help," Battle said.
In the meantime, they'll keep up with their deliveries, to which the community has grown dependent.
“I would really like to see us find another facility, something we could afford," Eaton said. “When we do things like this, it helps build a sense of community, so that we can change the world."