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Helping Each Other Through Difficult Times

By Saturday evening, I was dead tired.

I had never seen (or carried) so many potatoes in one place at one time in my entire life. But that was the scene at Brutus Seafood in Marathon this past Saturday. Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors, in cooperation with Brutus and Sweet Savannah’s, held another free meal giveaway … with more than five tons of produce given away with the hot lunches.

Potatoes … tomatoes … eggplants … corn … all this produce was separated and bagged for take-home with the takeout mojo pork, mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, and desserts supplied by Mike Forster and friends.

I became intimately familiar with 50-pound bags of fresh potatoes… and I learned that 50 pounds of red potatoes weigh about 10 pounds more than 50 pounds of yellow potatoes. No, I don’t know why.

But I do know that 750 people were fed a hot lunch and took home some groceries as well this past Saturday. And it really was a community effort. Forster, Elise Mucha and Kate Koler, from the three “host” businesses, brought their best. And there were a lot of volunteers helping make this happen: my fellow council members Mark Senmartin and Luis Gonzalez helped me dish out the food into the to-go containers. Other incredible volunteers include Rachel and her family, The Turtle Hospital’s own Bette Zirkelbach, Sam and Mindy, Toni, the tireless Wendy and her even more energetic daughter Sam, as well as people from Brutus, Sweet Savannah’s and Mangrove Mike’s. There were others as well, and forgive me for not mentioning everyone. But it’s really a community effort.

There were also the farms that donated the produce, and the truckers and volunteers who hauled it down. Forster has been feeding people in the Keys, from the Upper Keys to Bahama Village, nearly every day since this pandemic shutdown began. He usually rises between 1 and 2 a.m. to start cooking for the free lunch of the day. Special mention must go out to the donors and volunteers who have helped along the way. It’s a testament to how our Keys community comes together to take care of each other in times of trouble.

There are more great stories … like Lisa Miletti. She helped out by feeding people in the areas hardest hit by Irma, and now she’s back helping feed locals during this emergency. Along with the American Legion Riders (Post 154), she provided free meals on the past two Sundays for Middle Keys residents. Rich Anderson and the Legion Riders have done great things for our community, and their teaming up with Miletti has helped our neighbors get a good hot lunch. Thank you to all.

There are so many doing so much to help others: our first responders and health care workers … the people who staff our essential businesses … and those with a bit of extra time on our hands who do what they can and volunteer. This is what will keep our community strong during these trying times. Helping each other truly does help one’s self.

This is why I’ve asked for people watching my Friday concerts to direct any “tips” to Mike’s charity:

Speaking of which, thanks to all who have “attended” my Friday evening Facebook Live Concerts! The videos of the first four are still on my Facebook page, and I’ll be doing a new concert each Friday until this passes. Anywhere from 800 to 2,800 people have viewed each of these shows, and I’m (re) connecting with friends from all over. It’s been such a cool thing, and I’m probably going to find a way to keep up the Facebook Live Concerts even after we get back to normal.

This Friday’s show streams live at 7:30 p.m. from my Facebook page: I’ve received a lot of requests over the past four weeks, and I’m going to play a little catch-up, along with some of my favorite original songs. Hope you tune in, and “see” you this Friday!

— Catch John Fridays at his Social Distancing Concerts on Facebook Live. Music available on and iTunes, and wherever you get your streaming music.

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