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TREASURE COAST - Nonprofits, businesses, politicians, and local government workers united to feed furloughed federal employees. Others provided financial assistance and even free massages.

On the Treasure Coast, federal employees include Coast Guard officers, Fish and Wildlife Service workers, park rangers, USDA staff, FAA air traffic controllers, TSA workers, and NASA employees.

The Treasure Coast Food Bank was the organizing hub for much of the activity. The TCFB became the go-to stop for those needing food, those looking to donate, and those who had time to give.

The TCFB packed boxes for the estimated 1,000 federal employees living on the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee.

Volunteers sorted through thousands of pounds of donated food. Staff from the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners helped bag carrots and pack boxes. Their efforts focused on a full truckload of 38,000 pounds carrots for the federal employees. They broke down 50-pound bags of carrots into smaller portions for distribution throughout the Treasure Coast.

In Vero Beach, many downtown restaurants normally patronized by Fish and Wildlife Service employees banded together to offer a variety of discounts and free lunches. Participating restaurants included The Barefoot Café, Rio Coco Beans, Italian Kitchen, Sean Ryan Pub, Tea and Chi, and Off the Rail Downtown.

“US Fish & Wildlife has its South Florida Ecological Services Field Office in the heart of Historic Downtown Vero Beach,” said the county Chamber of Commerce. “These folks are our neighbors. We have missed them this past month during the federal government partial shutdown. The downtown area wants to extend our support.” The chamber urged residents to support those restaurants as a way of thanking them for helping the furloughed workers.

The Economic Opportunities Council of Indian River County offered furloughed federal workers financial assistance to help with rent, mortgage, utility bills, and food.

Ocean Drive Plastic Surgery in Vero Beach offered free 45-minute massages to furloughed employees with valid federal ID. “This furlough freebie is providing relief from the physical effects of added the emotional stress many of the government employees are carrying,” said a statement emailed to Hometown News from Dr. Alan Durkin’s office. “Creating muscle tension, the strain can lead to severe headaches, fatigue, stomach problems and difficulty sleeping. Ocean Drive Plastic Surgery aims to ease the pressure applied on the body and bring awareness to not only the financial matter of the government shutdown, but also the health risks involved.”

The Indian River County Democratic Executive Committee held a food drive for furloughed federal workers. The Democrats worked with the American Federation of Government Employees on the distribution of canned goods, dry goods, sanitary items, diapers, and gift cards to federal employees who work on the Treasure Coast.

“There are many unseen federal workers and their families in our community that need immediate help,” said Indian River County DEC Vice Chair Adriana de Kanter. “Through no fault of their own, our federal friends cannot work so we need to be there to help in our own small way. We thank the AFGE for working with us to reach our local neighbors.”

TCFB is located at 401 Angle Road, Fort Pierce. Volunteers are still needed even after the government reopens. Visit www.stophunger.org to learn about volunteering or donating.

Anyone needing assistance can visit any TCFB office or call (772) 489-3034, or send a message through Facebook.com/TCFoodBank.

Indian River County Reporter

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