A former Citrus County deputy turned Pastor is making sure residents in five counties are fed

Posted at 2:05 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 18:08:28-04

A Citrus County church is offering free, fresh produce to community members three times a week.  All you have to do is bring a smile.

It is first come, first serve at The New Church Without Walls International off Florida Avenue in Hernando.

Pastor Douglas Alexander Sr. has partnered with Farmshare, a non-profit organization that recovers food from farms, wholesalers and other groups which is donated to feed the hungry.

Three times a week, a semi-trailer full of different produce is dropped off and anyone is welcome to take it.

According to Alexander Sr., between 300 and 400 people show up for the food.  It is also distributed out to other area churches and agencies across Citrus, Marion, Sumter and Hernando counties.

"A lot of people come here," said Alexander Sr.  "Some people are on disability, some are on Social Security, some people only have the funding they get from that and they don't have extra to go out and get food."

Dara Sherouse, a single mother of two, is among those coming to get food.

"Because I am such a tight budget, they are [fruits and vegetables] more expensive in the store, but because of Mr. Alexander my kids can have some of those things that I can't financially provide for them," Sherouse said.

Alexander Sr. is very familiar with the struggles the community faces--he grew up in Hernando along with 17 siblings.

He went into the Army and then returned to the area and became a sheriff's deputy.  He was even Sherouse's school officer at one point.

That is when he started to help.

"The first thing I did that touched my heart, it was doing Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we began to throw turkeys in the back of the patrol car and start meeting the need," he recalled with a smile.

Eight years ago he retired and founded the church alongside his wife.

"We make sure that everyone is taken care of," he explained.

He is proud to say he has handed out more than 11 million pounds of food since he started.

"There is very little food left over," he said.

But anyone is welcome to take until there is nothing left.  If you cannot drive to the church or have no alternate transport, someone will deliver the food to you.

Volunteers even go into the woods and take food to homeless men and women living in tents.

Many who take have never been able to afford certain types of produce--meaning many have never tasted what is available and do not know who to cook it.

Volunteers are also ready to help, offering cooking tips and easy recipes.