Dottie Cianci, coordinator of the Ecumenical Council’s Food Cupboard, and Dave Carter, former president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors, inspect donated items during a food drive. By Donald WittkowskiMultimillion-dollar beachfront homes, trendy downtown boutiques and upscale sailboats traversing the waterways provide a decidedly affluent backdrop in Ocean City.But there are lesser-known parts of town where people are suffering, where poverty and hunger exist, said Gloria Votta, chairwoman of the Community Services Committee for the Ocean City Board of Realtors.“It would surprise people. It’s very surprising,” Votta said of the city’s poor population.For those people, the Board of Realtors is lending a helping hand through its annual community food drive in partnership with the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, an association of local churches that helps needy families.Food is given away for free to Ocean City residents by the Ecumenical Council’s Food Cupboard at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, Eighth Street and Central Avenue. The hours are 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.Dottie Cianci, coordinator of the Food Cupboard, said more than 100 families will benefit from the food drive. It will help all demographic groups, including people who live in low-income housing, senior citizens and homebound residents. The Food Cupboard makes deliveries to senior citizens and homebound residents.“There are some people who simply can’t get out. I’m just so proud of this, because we just started it,” Cianci said of the delivery service.In addition to food, the Board of Realtors is also collecting household items, including detergent, paper products, soap and toothpaste.Originally scheduled to end on Feb. 28, the “Food is Love” drive has been extended through March 15 to give the Board of Realtors more time to collect items donated by the public. Votta said the food drive underscores the level of compassion the community has for needy families and senior citizens.“There is nothing this community will not pull together to do,” she said. “I think it’s one of the best places to live as far as a caring community is concerned.”Now in its seventh year, the food drive is among a series of charitable events organized by the Board of Realtors. The organization also holds clothing drives and a Toys for Tots campaign throughout the year.Food donations may be dropped off at the Board of Realtors office at 405 22nd Street. To arrange for food pickups, people may call the office at (609) 399-0128. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.In addition to nonperishable food donations, the board is also seeking household items, including liquid laundry detergent, dish detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant, soap and toothpaste.Dave Carter, president of the Board of Realtors, noted that some people choose to donate cash, which in turn is used to buy gift cards at local grocery stores. So far, about $500 in cash has been donated for the food drive, he said.Already, dozens and dozens of food items and household goods have been collected at the Board of Realtors office. The board’s conference room has been turned into a makeshift pantry – crowded with cans of soup, microwaveable dinners, canned goods, cereal and jars of peanut butter and jelly.“What you see here is only part of it. There are a lot of boxes we still have to pick up,” Carter said.Donations may be dropped off at the Board of Realtors office at 405 22nd Street.
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