At the break of dawn, cars begin trickling into the parking lot of a bright yellow building on Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd. Large letters spelling “CAFE” sit on the lawn out front. Morning coffee? Hardly. These early morning risers aren’t patrons and this isn’t a normal cafe. This is the Community Cooperative- a food-assistance organization serving Lee County. According to their Director of Development, Stefanie Ink-Edwards, one in every six residents of Lee County are hungry or need food assistance. This is precisely the problem Community Cooperative is trying to combat through their scratch soup kitchen, food pantry, school lunch program, and Meals on Wheels programs.
How is one organization able to do so much? A team of dedicated volunteers. Starting at 6 am, six days a week, volunteers act as assistant chefs, stock hands, dishwashers, and drivers to ensure that the people who rely on the organization for a meal are able to eat. As dedicated as the existing volunteers are, the Cooperative is still short staffed. “The thing we need most are volunteers. We only have three chefs on staff in charge of all of the cooking, the rest is done by volunteers,” Stefanie tells us as she walks us through the kitchen. With the holidays approaching, volunteers are needed now more than ever. “Either to work here in the kitchen, deliver Meals on Wheels, help us with events and special projects. We need the community’s support to continue to operate the way that we do.”