St. Luke's United Methodist Church

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4851 S. Apopka-Vineland Road
Orlando, FL 32819
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Supporting HEARTS Initiative

Posted on January 21, 2021 at 9:48 am in .

New Name, Same Great Service, St. Luke’s “Supporting HEARTS” Initiative Provides Meals for Central Florida’s Arts/Entertainment Community

This month “Supporting HEARTS,” (formerly “Feed the Need”) will be kicking off their very first fundraising campaign to continue providing meal assistance to the roughly 8,000 Central Florida performers currently unemployed due to the pandemic. Supporting HEARTS is an outreach initiative through the non-profit St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and was established with the mission to help distribute food and meals to all of the incredible members of the Central Florida arts community who have made bringing joy and entertainment to their life’s work. The absence of live performances has dimmed Central Florida’s once vibrant theme park, theaters, and entertainment districts. “Our goal has been to celebrate our local arts community and entertainment professionals,” said Steve Fessler, one of the program’s Founding Partners. “It is not about a handout; it is about celebrating them and providing some food to nourish them while they are temporarily down,” Fessler noted. He went on to share that, “They have fed our souls for so long that is time that we, as a community, step up and give back to our arts and entertainment professionals in a meaningful way.”

Yanette Moyano, a member of the Supporting HEARTS Development Committee added, “The performers and technical professionals who support the shows are what make every encounter at our venues magical.” “We hope local residents, as well as people from around the world, remember how they felt watching live shows in Central Florida’s theme parks and entertainment venues and will join our mission to give back to the entertainment family who have given us so much through the years,” Moyano commented. Supporting HEARTS is appealing to the global community for help supporting performers, musicians, costumers, designers, characters, technicians, entertainment managers, and their families.

St. Luke’s Lead Pastor, The Rev. Jennifer Stiles Williams shared that the church’s theatre program was just one of the many theatre companies shuttered by COVID-19 and the congregation wanted to help neighboring cast and crews feeling the impact as well. “Orlando and the surrounding area economy have been built on tourism, and the backbone of this industry are those who work to create the magic and entertainment. These sectors have been hit the hardest due to the pandemic.

St. Luke’s values this community of artists and jumped into action offering back a little of the magic and hospitality they have offered to us as a city for decades,” noted Rev. Stiles Williams.

Andrea Canny, an Orlando performer reflected that “Many of us in the entertainment/gig business have lived, for years, paycheck to paycheck and without benefits, because art is our passion and our calling. But, none of us imagined we would one day rely on the kindness of strangers to provide us with healthy food to fill our refrigerators and stomachs. Though, that is exactly what the people behind St. Luke’s (Supporting HEARTS) food distribution have provided for us during this pandemic.” When prompted to describe what she thinks the initiative means to her fellow arts and entertainment colleagues, Canny added that “With our industry all but completely decimated, we are using what tiny savings and unemployment funds we have to keep a roof over our heads and the lights on, but this food is keeping us alive and fed.”

“It’s become more than just a weekly meal distribution,” said Steve MacKinnon, St. Luke’s Director of Contemporary Music and TheatreArts, “Our guests enjoy the free live entertainment provided by their peers and are greeted like family because that’s how we feel about this community”. MacKinnon added that Supporting HEARTS is inviting a broader audience to join the efforts to provide fresh produce and prepared meals to ensure everyone who needs the help can receive it. “The talent these performers have shared through music and theatrical productions has enhanced all of our lives,” he noted, “Supporting HEARTS enables all of us that care about the arts and the artists to give back what they have so richly given.”

Canny summed up the experience when she said, “Forget the talk…the amazing people behind St. Luke’s (Supporting HEARTS) food distribution are walking the walk. So, I encourage anyone who has ever enjoyed a concert for free, enjoyed walking past beautiful artwork at a festival for free, or even had a good laugh at entertainers on YouTube for free…if you have the funds, please donate. Entertainers are always asked to perform or create for free…but now they need your help just to survive.”

To help provide food security for Central Florida’s arts and entertainment professionals, visit supportingheartsorlando.org and donate today.

About Supporting HEARTS – Supporting HEARTS is an outreach initiative through the non-profit St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Supporting HEARTS was established with the mission to help fund food and meals distributed to all of the incredible members of the Central Florida arts community who have made bringing joy and entertainment their life’s work. It is now our turn to play a part in bringing smiles to their faces.


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