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 2,023 households are registered at Our Lady's Pantry. Of these, 931 come regularly for a big box of groceries. While 138 reflect households with only one member, the remainder of our clients are families — some quite large with many children. In addition, more than 100 bags with a variety of non-perishable nutritious fruits and vegetables, pasta, bread, and protein are made monthly for unregistered families and those who come on their off week and need more food.
For those in our inactive group of clients, Our Lady's Pantry provides some peace of mind, serving as a cushion that they can fall back on temporarily, as needed.
"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.”