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12 Who Care: Jan and Dale Jirousek create way to collect thousands of pounds of food for those in need

The idea started with an empty box and two big hearts.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — One local couple found a way to make it easy for others to lend a helping hand.

Jan and Dale Jirousek's idea started with just an empty box.

"We have a box out on out on our front porch,” Jan Jirousek said. 

They put that box in front of their Ponte Vedra home.

"We have collections all day long," she said.

More than eight months later, that box is overflowing with food donations from their neighbors.

In April, when people started losing their jobs from COVID-19 closures, Jan and Dale wanted to help. 

"It hurts my heart, you know, and I just can't understand anybody not wanting to help people," Jan said. 

"She really diligently researched who's going to have the best bang for our buck," Jan Kary said. She nominated the Jirouseks for the 12 Who Care Awards.

Jan and Dale selected Lutheran Social Services in Jacksonville to support their mission.

The word about the Jirousek’s little collection site spread through their community.

Dale said, "And the thing is people want to give. They want to have ways to help. So we're just offering a way to help." 

Their home has a makeshift warehouse.

"They've turned their house, basically into a collection area," Bill Brim said. He is the Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services.

Now, Dale and Jan take a few carloads of food a week to Lutheran Social Services.

"They've been able to supply us with about 74,000 pounds of food just since April," Jennifer Paulk of Lutheran Social Services said.

The couple has collected more than food. The couple collects checks from neighbors as well.

Jan said, "We collected over $40,000 since April to be able to buy food and produce for the food bank."

In 2020, the number of people seeking help or waiting in line for food at Lutheran Social Services has grown 136 percent compared to the previous year. The need for help came from the pandemic’s financial punch.

"And we haven't seen the full impact yet. Because you still have looming evictions," Brim said.

Food lines at Lutheran Social Services are expected to get longer, with more people in need of help.

Jan and Dale will keep on collecting and transporting.

Kary said "Janice is never gonna give $5 million to Lutheran Social Services. But what she has done in mobilizing that entire neighborhood of Del Webb Ponte Vedra is amazing!"

Jan said they do this because "God tells us we're supposed to do this. I believe God's work, our hands."

Jan and Dale Jirousek is one couple who truly cares.