A bucketful of hope

Individuals and families everywhere are struggling with the incredible hardship imposed by the coronavirus.  For the working poor, in particular, already food insecure, the loss of jobs has multiplied the worry of putting food on their tables day after day.

Extended school breaks and business closures mean family members are home around the clock, increasing the levels of need as we’ve never seen before.

But angels everywhere are stepping up to help ease the anxiety of where one’s next meal is coming from.

One such angel is a grandmom who had the idea to ask her neighbors for food for Our Lady’s Pantry, where she volunteers.

“I put a bucket outside my door,” she says.  “Then I went onto Next Door for my neighborhood and asked for donations.”

Grandmom, who wishes to remain anonymous, has a sign on her bucket thanking those donating and letting them know she is taking the food to Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry, in Wimauma.

“But people can do the same thing in their own neighborhoods and donate to the Pantry of their choice,” she says.  “Beth-El is a few miles south of U.S. 301, in Wimauma, for example, and St. Anne’s is on Rt. 41 in Ruskin.”

Grandmom had hoped to bring a couple of bags of food to the Pantry each week when she went to volunteer.  The donations she is receiving, however, have been “overwhelming.

“It is just amazing how many people want to help,” she says.  “They just need a way.”

Not everyone is on Next Door, but grandmom has a friend who, also, is leaving a bucket in her driveway.  She’s not on Next Door, but communicates with her neighbors through Face Book.  Other neighborhoods have group emails.  The possibilities for helping are endless.

“Anyone who wishes to do this can commit to delivering their collections to their chosen pantry on a timely basis.  She suggests reminding their communities now and then that they are still collecting and that the bucket will remain!!

“I have a trunk full of food to take to the Pantry every time I go.”

Grandmom is stunned at the number of checks she’s receiving, too, all made out to Our Lady’s Pantry, and especially at the amount of these checks, which range from $15 to $500.

“My neighbors have given us $2,100 for food for the Pantry already,” she says.  “One neighbor is planning make a donation from her stimulus check!  We even get some cash too.

“I give the checks to our director, Tom Bullaro, and I use the cash to shop for whatever he tells me we need.  One week, for example, Tom said he had been unable to get any Mac & Cheese at Feeding Tampa Bay, our regional food bank.  So that week I bought $40 worth of Mac & Cheese.  Another week, we had no canned fruit, so I bought $20 worth of canned fruit.”

Our Lady’s Pantry serves men, women, and children in about 200 different households on alternate Saturdays.  While many of the Pantry’s clients reflect individuals living alone, most of the remaining reflect families — many with lots of children.  In fact, a significant majority of families have four to seven members.  A significant minority are feeding eight to 10 on a typical day.

All things considered, an average 1,334 individuals benefit from the Pantry’s typical food distribution every two Saturdays.

If you wish to help fill Pantry shelves with food, kindly send a check to Our Lady’s Pantry at: 16650 U.S. Highway 301 South; Wimauma, Fl. 33598.  Thank you.