NewsCitrus, Hernando County


Operation Heartfelt makes sure needy school kids don't go hungry on the weekends

Posted at 3:52 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 18:13:37-05

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — An organization in Brooksville is making sure school kids don’t go hungry on the weekends.

"The schools take care of them through the week but on the weekends they don’t have anything," said volunteer Debbie Mentz.

That’s why Operation HeartF.E.L.T. has been “Feeding Empty Little Tummies” for 10 years.

"It’s got to be a relief for them to bring that backpack home on Friday and they have food for Saturday and Sunday," said Mentz.

The kids who get the backpacks are anonymous, only known to the school

But that doesn't stop volunteers from coming every Thursday to fill nearly 300 backpacks full of healthy meals and snacks.

The backpacks are dispersed to needy kids in 12 different schools in Hernando County. Each bag feeds between one and 11 kids, depending on the family size.

The groceries cost up to $8,000 a month. 100 percent of their funding is donations from the community.

And a local tie has the country band "Big and Rich” volunteering to put on a concert to raise money for Operation Heartfelt on Saturday.

"Big, his name is Kenny. One of our founders taught him in elementary school in Virginia, and she has kept in touch with him through all these years," said Diane Dannemiller, the warehouse director.

Saturday's concert in Brooksville is already sold out. But organizers are hoping it will help get the word out about what they do and how getting more donations and volunteers is so crucial for them.

"Our volunteers are amazing, we couldn't do it without them. They are the key to this program," said Dannemiller.

For more information on Operation HeartF.E.L.T. or to make a donation, visit their website at