It’s time for our last blog post of the year! Of course, there’s the obligatory message of good riddance to 2020 and optimism for 2021. We also want to offer a sincere thank you for your support during this difficult year, and offer an update on an ongoing initiative that our readers helped make possible.
Your donations thus far will fund over 270,000 meals for those in need. That’s wonderful and we couldn’t be prouder of everyone who has contributed, but with the scale of these layoffs and the unemployment numbers in Central Florida–plus more layoffs hitting during the holiday season just this week–even more help is still urgently needed in our community.
Two mobile food distributions have been held thus far funded by Disney Tourist Blog reader donations. The first was in November at Rock Church in Kissimmee, where 749 families received enough food to provide 33,815 meals.
Sarah and I volunteered at the second of these, just before Christmas at a mobile food distribution in partnership between Second Harvest and Good Samaritan Outreach in Orange County.
That food distribution provided 47,747 meals to 803 households or 3,842 people. Second Harvest did a write-up on their blog (including an awkward video interview with us, in case anyone is wondering why we don’t vlog) about the event.
It’s difficult to fully put the experience into words. While we knew about how dire things have gotten in Central Florida–news reports of multi-mile long lines for food banks have become the norm–it was nonetheless sobering to actually see and experience this ourselves.
The line for the food distribution began forming hours before distribution started, as some families worried about the food running out and wanted to ensure they’d receive groceries. Per Second Harvest, overnight lines like this have become a common occurrence.
We volunteered at the mobile food distribution for about 4 hours, constantly assembling bags/boxes of groceries and loading them into cars. During that time, there was never not a long line of vehicles. It was surreal, and we still cannot imagine going from a dream job helping to make the magic at the beginning of this year to worrying about going hungry over the holidays. It’s heartbreaking.
Many of you have supported this initiative, and we’ve now raised over $70,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, making it the biggest fundraiser in the organization’s history! Your donations have made a significant impact, one that we cannot fully articulate and you might trouble fathoming. If you have the means, please consider making a donation. Every $10 contribution buys 40 meals, illustrating quite literally that every dollar makes a difference.
Back when we launched the fundraiser, we wrote that “whether you live here in Central Florida or not, this is your community too as a Walt Disney World fan.” While the circumstances are saddening, it’s uplifting to see that so many of you took this to heart. Second Harvest informed us that over 85% of donations to our drive came from outside Florida. Again, thank you so much for the support–it truly means a lot to us and has been a small bright spot in an otherwise depressing year.
Beyond your support for the food drive fundraiser, we want to also thank you all for making an otherwise miserable year a little more bearable. While there have been some uncomfortable and contentious topics, the vast majority of regular readers have contributed thoughtful insight in a balanced and respectful manner. It has not gone unnoticed.
Comments sections that are not useless and toxic are a rarity nowadays on the internet, and we realize how fortunate we are to have a healthy one here. It’s great to see comments with feedback, experiences, and tips that help others. We are incredibly thankful for the sense of community. So thank you all for that.
Additionally, thank you for “tolerating” the blog getting weird and off-topic at times. We’ve been trying to balance helpful advice with (attempts at) humor and escapism, realizing that it has been a rough year for everyone and the real-world news is often bleak. Hopefully we’ve done a decent job at this.
Most of you probably didn’t “need” several consecutive Festivus posts (I’m told “no one else watches Seinfeld anymore,” which, if true, would be some of the most depressing news of the year) or that one really horrifying post about Cats at Walt Disney World (I’m told that has “haunted my nightmares for months”), but you abided my nonsense anyway.
Writing these eccentric posts, tossing in an obscure and unrelated pop culture reference to see if anyone picks up on it, and going off-topic a bit more than normal has been one of the ways I’ve gotten through this chaotic year. So even though the opposite might seem true, that bizarreness is actually what’s keeping me sane.
We’ve also taken some much needed time to disconnect and recharge this holiday season, going on walks while the weather is nice, and giving Walter and Yossarian the attention they crave (file photo above because we’ve never been able to top this Christmas “masterpiece”). I’ve also become addicted to Breath of the Wild, which is somehow the first Zelda game I’ve ever played.
We hope you all likewise have had relaxing, restorative, and safe holiday seasons–at least to the extent possible. Hopefully you got to see family and friends, even if via unconventional means. That’s exactly what we did, spending Christmas “together” with our families via FaceTime. Not exactly how anyone wanted to end a tough year, but 2020 is like the 999 (un)happy haunts in year form–there’s always room for one more disappointment.
Nevertheless, we are actually cautiously optimistic for 2021. Obviously, it won’t be like a Muppet Christmas Carol with everything magically transformed overnight and New Year’s Day being a fresh start (although I’d welcome three ghosts tonight if that’s all it’d take). The next month-plus or so will be pretty rough–possibly the worst of the last twelve months.
We’re hopeful that by mid-February things start improving, and in a hurry. With the post-holiday surge in the rear-view mirror and vaccine rollouts accelerating, our expectation/hope is that numbers plummet. It’s an odd dichotomy, but there truly is light at the end of the tunnel and cause for optimism…even if not immediate. We definitely don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we’re already imagining life going back to normal, making plans for late next spring, and hopeful that the “regular” Walt Disney World returns, with much of what’s missing restored.
In that spirit of optimism, we’ll wrap things up with some beautiful sentiment from Walter Cronkite in the holiday tag of IllumiNations: “During this glorious time of year, there is one message that rings out around the world in every language. Peace on earth, goodwill to men is a wish to hold in our hearts throughout each passing year. A gift of immeasurable value. A treasure being handed down with care, from generation to generation. And so our holiday wish is that everyone, everywhere share in the spirit of the season. Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021!
Any thoughts as we look back on 2020 and towards 2021? Feedback to anything mentioned here? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!