Vero News

Harvest Food and Outreach Center offers tour Oct. 6 in Vero

VERO BEACH — Serving families below the poverty level along the Treasure Coast, the Harvest Food and Outreach Center has seen its need grow over the past six years. And to meet that need, the organization has opened two new offices, one in Vero Beach, where it will offer tours to the public Oct. 6.

The new Vero Beach office, located at 1360 28th St., will not completely replace the older office on Old Dixie Highway, although the new office will offer more services, such as Access Florida accommodations that allow people to sign up for food stamps and other services.  

Since 2003, Harvest Food and Outreach Center has offered food, Medicaid, career counseling and other aid to those at 200 percent of the poverty level or below, staffed by a small army of volunteers working up to 40 hours a week.

Dona Olinger, director of volunteer services at the Ft. Pierce office, manages a crew of 50-60 volunteers who last month logged more than 3,300 hours.

“A lot of people don’t have work and don’t want to sit around all day,” Olinger said. “We’re hoping to create a national model. It’s a fabulous organization.”

According to the group’s Web site,, one office alone can see about 500 people per day. The two latest offices were outfitted within a week of their purchase, Olinger said.

Perhaps the most crucial component, the food pantry, allows people to purchase low-cost food. For every $10 spent, a customer is given a free loaf of bread. With $20, customers can add to that a dozen eggs.

“We buy bulk, we buy salvage and we turn around and sell it to our clients for the cost of the food plus the gas it takes to transport,” she said.

When the group offered tours this spring, Maureen Nicolace, an Indian River resident and president of the Vero Beach Christian Business Association, was one of the first to go along.

Nicolace said it was heartening to see people in trouble able to buy their basic needs for around 30 cents on the dollar.

“It’s not just giving people food,” Nicolace said. “They’re going shopping.”

But the most important aspect of the group’s work, she said, is the career counseling given to clients who may lack money-saving skills.

“You’re training people to get out of a financial bind,” Nicolace said.

Olinger said the group puts the same emphasis on helping people in the long-term as it does for the present.

“It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out,” she said.

Tours will run Oct. 6 and 29, Nov. 17 and Dec. 3. To schedule, call (772) 770-2665.

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