SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers welcomed one the organization's longest-standing community partners to the BB&T Center on Tuesday, as members from the club's staff teamed up with The Harvest Drive to pack food for needy families in Broward County.
"As a professional hockey team and the only professional sports team in Broward County, it's important that we are a pillar in the community and a steward in the community," Panthers Director of Community Relations John Colombo said.
"I think the biggest thing for us is that we're no longer just writing checks, we're out here getting our hands dirty, rolling up our sleeves and getting down to business. We don't want to be a partner that is just presenting a check once a year. We want our partnerships to be 365 days a year."
Founded in 1992, the goal of Harvest Drive is to not only provide local families with food and other non-perishable goods, but to also teach children that they can and must give back to their community.
"Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I thought that there were a lot of people in need," said Renee Herman, Harvest Drive's founder. "I wanted to assist and to try and fill in the holes for them so that they could have a great holiday. I took a bunch of fifth graders to Publix, at that time, and we collected some food and just gave it out to the local community. Every year we got a few more families."
Today, Harvest drive has 16 distribution sites located throughout Broward County with more than 180 public schools currently participating in the collection of non-perishable food. With the help of local schools and organizations, Harvest Drive assisted more than 2,8000 food-insecure families in 2016.
This is the eighth year the Panthers have sponsored Harvest Drive.
"We couldn't do it without [the Panthers]," said Herman. "We have some great community sponsors and people that help us, but the Florida Panthers have always been right there in a minutes notice for us."
"This is a dream come true for us. We're getting to incorporate community partners and sponsors to help us make this happen. This food came into the stadium yesterday, today we're packing the boxes and tomorrow it's going to be in Broward County schools. Social workers will be able to give this food out to families in need within a two-day turnaround."
In addition to Tuesday's packing event, the Panthers will also be holding a Harvest Drive-sponsored food drive and turkey drive in the fall to help local families around the Thanksgiving season.