Skip to Main Content

United Way distributes meals in public housing

United Way of Central Florida volunteers took aid to seniors and others living at the Winter Haven Public Housing Authority Saturday morning, delivering hot and frozen meals.

"We saw seniors who were disabled, homebound and had no transportation," said Merissa Green a United Way board member.

"The need in our community is great, especially among our senior citizens," Green said.

"I saw car loads of large families and senior citizens," she said. "They expressed sincere gratitude for this help. At United Way of Central Florida, our mission is to improve lives and strengthen the community."

One lady, she added, was down to just a few small items in her freezer.

"It was apparent by her appearance how ill she was," Green said. "I know for some it is hard to roll up the sleeves during social distancing. But if some of us aren't brave, the vulnerable among us won't get much needed assistance."

George Tinsley, a United Way board member and owner of the Auburndale Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise for about 36 years, also volunteers, along with his wife, Seretha Tinsley.

"As a community business owner, I feel blessed to still be able to do business during these very difficult times," he said. He said his employees arrived two hours early for work on Saturday, frying 800 pieces of chicken and sides to have them ready for delivery by 10 a.m. at the Winter Haven Housing Authority.

At age 73, Tinsley has been cautioned to not leave his house in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19. But he said he wanted to help with the deliveries Saturday.

"The people were so excited," he said. "They were lined up, very organized ... the cars were backed up over two blocks, and each car had two to four people in the car."

Door-to-door deliveries took place for those who could not make it out of their apartments.

"They were thanking us by name," he said. More than 400 meals were passed out, with chicken and two side items, he said.

Joining Green and Tinsley were Winter Haven Housing Authority Executive Director Lisa Watkins and her employees; Antionette Pollard of Pieces to Peace Counseling; M.J. Wright, a junior at Bethune-Cookman University; United Way of Central Florida CEO Christina Criser Jackson; and Rod Crowley, United Way chief operating officer.

Story originally published in The News Chief on March 30, 2020.