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‘Goodness to Go,’ new SOS event kicks off

August 23, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Residents have the opportunity to send their "goodness to go" this September without ever having to leave their home to take part, thanks to the new Sustainable Outreach Society.

Initiative leader and facilitator Chris Spiro said people had tired of paying money to attend the traditional "Save Our Summer: Feed the Cape" event and then donating more to take part.

"We are at the time in the economy where people are being asked to do a lot of things right now," he said.

So they came up with a new idea for convenient giving at any level a participant might choose.

Spiro and his team envisioned an event where "you don't have to dress up. You don't have to buy a drink. You don't have to pay an admission charge. You just have to go to a website."

Sept. 13 has been declared as Cape Coral and County Goodness to Go Day.

Organizers are encouraging people to visit and fill out a form, which includes a first and last name, address, phone number and email. On Sept. 13 a group of volunteers will visit those homes to pick up the bag of food, check or gift cards they wish to donate to the cause.

"We are going to show up, pick it up and leave. We will leave a little card and tell you that you are a member of the Sustainable Outreach Society," Spiro said. "It's the next evolution of the SOS event."

All participants need to do is place the items on their porch, or near their front door out of the sun on the designated "Goodness-To-Go-Day" Sept. 13.

The kickoff for the event began Thursday, Aug. 16, when many partners of SOS sent emails out about the event.

"My firm coordinates and conceives the idea. We send out the material. All our partners have to do is e-blast and get involved and encourage their membership to take part in that day and we will help feed the Cape," Spiro, of Spiro & Associates, said.

He said he does not care if someone can just donate one can of food, $1, or a $5 gift card.

"We will come and get it because every last bit of it will make a difference," Spiro said. "Anybody of any age can be involved."

The Cape Coral Caring Center, partners for this event, turns every dollar into $8 of food. So, if $100 is donated, it turns into a $800 donation.

"Now you are saving lives buying big boxes of peanut butter and big bags of rice," Spiro said.

In addition to people in need of food, those who are homeless often have dogs that keep them company and so they need dog food, too.

Non-perishable specialty food stuff is needed as well.

"The Cape Coral Caring Center has dog food. A lot of our folks that are in need are diabetic because they have not eaten well their entire life. We have diabetic food," Spiro said.

Six years ago, Spiro was having lunch at Mel's Diner on Pine Island Road with the new general manager of FOX TV. Their discussion included news regarding 70 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunches.

A follow up question, "What happens during the summer time," eventually morphed into SOS: Save Our Summer.

From there, six individuals with the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Coral Construction Building Industry Association, Cape Coral Council for Progress, Spiro & Associates and FOX got together to do Save Our Summer: Feed the Cape.

"I didn't know where we were going to bring the food and money," Spiro said, adding that the Cape Coral Caring Center presented itself.

The first event kicked off at Rumrunner's. From there, it spawned in the fifth year with a goal of $50,000 and 50,000 pounds of food.

"We exceeded that goal," Spiro said.

The SOS Smack Down was held where the local Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Realtors and individuals from the building industry competed to raise the most money and food for a "blinged out $15 wrestling belt."

"It's a competitive event. That's how we got to 50,000 pounds of food," Spiro said.

After that, he thought he would put the event on the shelf for a few years because he is a firm believer to not to wear something out.

In the meantime, Spiro began serving on the board for the Cape Coral Caring Center where he heard local people and organizations wanting to know when the SOS event would take place.

Spiro has a passion for helping others because he said he knows hunger. His mother and father divorced while he was growing up. There were many nights they did not know if they were going to eat until their mother got home.

The pinnacle of what Spiro remembers from those earlier years was one night in particular where they had no money and had to find ingredients in the cabinet to make a meal. That meal consisted of a box of spaghetti, a couple of eggs, butter and Kraft parmesan cheese.

"Once a year we have that meal to not forget what it was like to be hungry," Spiro said.

That memory is why he plays it forward to help feed those who are hungry today.

Spiro said there are 800 children in Lee County who sleep in a car with their family hungry at night.

One in six elderly residents cannot afford three meals a day in Lee County, he added.

"I didn't look the other way. My merry band of volunteers, my best friends, best clients will be there in the front row, checks in hand, boxes of food in hand. They don't say no," Spiro said.

It's about getting everybody to donate that money, donate food and donate gift cards for the Sept. 13 event.

"Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Those kids and families deserve to give thanks and celebrate, just like you and I," Spiro said.



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