Our Lady's Pantry traces its beginnings to 1999, when the Knights of Columbus of Prince of Peace and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and their wives, first provided food for families in the vestibule of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Migrant Mission Church. At that time, the Pantry served about 25 families a week. A few years later, the Pantry moved to the classroom building on the far side of the campus, as the number of families coming for assistance continued to grow.
Today, a stunning 1,824 clients are registered at Our Lady's Pantry. Of these, more than 700 come for food regularly. Of those remaining, Our Lady's Pantry provides some peace of mind, serving as a cushion that they can fall back on temporarily, as needed.
While 287 of our clients reflect individuals living alone, most of those remaining reflect families — many with lots of children. In fact, a significant majority of our clients have four to seven members, while a significant minority are feeding eight to 10 persons on a typical day.
In all, an average 1,314 men, women, and children enjoy an abundance of fruits, vegetables, meats, pasta, peanut butter, and other nutritious foods from the boxes they take home from Our Lady's Pantry every two weeks.
"We do this work to serve God and to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas," says director Tom Bullaro.
Tom and his wife Anita have been working at the Pantry since 2004. Tom and his team work behind the scenes, ordering, and then picking up food from Feeding Tampa Bay and other food markets, and then delivering it to the Pantry.
Anita works on site with volunteers, as they sort the food, stock the shelves and freezers, then pack up boxes of groceries to be given to families on Saturday morning. Importantly, Anita is first in line on Saturday mornings to greet our clients with a big smile and make them feel welcome.
"Clients are our friends," she says.
“Truly I tell you, whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.”