Introducing AmeriCorps at the Harry Chapin Food Bank!

Tags: Americorps, Mobile Pantry

by Louise Bain, Programs Outreach Coordinator/AmeriCorps Program Manager and Mary Castro, Southwest Florida Food Corps AmeriCorps team

AmeriCorps Serving Here banners can be spotted at mobile pantries and at the food bank’s warehouses in Lee and Collier Counties.  You may be asking yourself, “Who or what is AmeriCorps and how did it end up at Harry Chapin Food Bank?”

Established in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, AmeriCorps works to recruit members to serve nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community organizations.  By doing this it helps these communities meet their needs, which can range from education to public safety. AmeriCorps also helps young adults by creating jobs and helping them build necessary skills for today’s workforce.

We’d like to introduce you to the members of the Southwest Florida Food Corps AmeriCorps team!:

Roberto Garcia is a 2014 graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University where he received his BA in Communication.  He assists with mobile pantry distributions and helps lead volunteers at our Collier County warehouse.  He loves television and concerts and plans to attend graduate school.

Xavier Phillips is a Wisconsin native who relocated to Lee County two years ago.  Prior to joining the Southwest Florida Food Corps he attended Mariner High School, graduating in 2014 and has previously volunteered at the food bank.  In his free time, Xavier likes to play video games, hang out with his friends and enjoys food from Subway, his favorite restaurant.

Dawn Adkins grew up in Naples but has lived in Georgia and Tennessee for most of her adult life.  She has worked in a variety of capacities including teaching, and as an Environmental Radiochemistry Laboratory Supervisor and Law Library Government Documents Supervisor.  She moved back to Southwest Florida after six months service in Monitoring and Evaluation for a malnutrition treatment clinic nonprofit organization in Leogane, Haiti.  She is happy to be serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Harry Chapin Food Bank in the fight against hunger in Southwest Florida and very appreciative of the opportunity to learn about food banks and their impact on the community.

Edwin Martinez is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico and moved to Brooklyn, New York with his family when he was two years old.  Edwin worked with disabled children and adults in a residential care facility for fifteen years.  He enjoys helping others and is excited to be serving as an AmeriCorps member to make a difference in the fight against hunger in Southwest Florida.  Some of Edwin’s favorite foods are rice and beans.

Nathan Ricklefs
is a recent college graduate from the University of Kansas. He graduated with a degree in English and hopes to teach in the future. Before he joined the AmeriCorps team he volunteered for the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools and the Animal Refuge Center. In his free time he enjoys kayaking and getting Chinese food with his coworkers.

Mary Castro was born in Naples, Florida and is a current resident of Immokalee. Her favorite color is purple and on her days off she likes to spend time with her cat.  She is a recent FGCU graduate with a degree in Journalism. Prior to joining the Southwest Florida Food Corps, she was an intern at Clear Channel/iHeartRadio.

Tyler Sievert is from Great Falls, Montana and currently lives in Lehigh Acres.  After graduating from high school, he began volunteering at the food bank in 2013.  In his free time, he likes to listen to music and edit pictures.  He has also done some acting, so we may have a future star in the Southwest Florida Food Corps!

Sheryl Verhulst moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to the warmer climes of Bonita Springs earlier this year.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and loves dogs.  Sheryl is based out of our Collier County warehouse where she recruits and leads new volunteers. She is passionate about fitness and nutrition and spends her free time working out.  

Thanks to the AmeriCorps members we have recently begun to receive a steady group of volunteers at the Naples Warehouse. We have also partnered with Community Cooperative (formerly CCMI) to assist with their newly launched nutritional education program called F.L.I.P. (Food Literacy in Preschool), which teaches preschoolers about fruits and vegetables using activities and tastings.

Look for the Southwest Florida Food Corps members at our mobile pantries, food drives and community events.  If you are interested in learning more about the AmeriCorps program, please visit

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