“Volunteers to Our Lady’s Pantry come from all walks of life bringing countless skills with them,” says Tom Bullaro. Bullaro, who is co-director of the Pantry with his wife Anita says, “we were fortunate one day, when Jim wandered into the Pantry to lend a hand.
“Jim has been a dedicated volunteer at Our Lady Pantry for more than seven years,” Bullaro says. “He initially volunteered at the Pantry helping to stock shelves and pack boxes and since then has become instrumental in pantry operations. He started driving to pick-up food when the pantry was in need of another driver, too. After about a year, Jim even had the bright idea to set up a computer program for registering clients. That program has received accolades from Feeding Tampa Bay.”
The way Mecsko remembers his transition from stocking shelves and packing boxes into clients’ cars on Saturday mornings is that one day when things had slowed down outside, he wandered over to the registration desk to see what was going on.
“I noticed Anita shuffling multiple copies of paper as clients gave their names,” Mecsko says.
“Anita told me it was no longer enough to give food to the hungry. We needed to keep all kinds of records for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and even more for Feeding Tampa Bay, our regional food bank. All of these agencies require assorted information to ensure the safety of food distributed to our clients. We also had to document how many persons were receiving this food.”
Mecsko took it all in. Days later, an idea was born.
“I thought to myself, why can’t this information be computerized?”
Then, because of his background in electronics, and as a computer programmer, he had the skill set to make the changes he visualized. Mecsko had served as the test engineer on the sonar section in the front of the Mark-48 torpedo for the U.S. Navy, at Gould Oceans Systems. He also served as gaming commissions officer, writing inventory software for the Hard Rock Casino, in Tampa. It was the perfect background to bring Our Lady’s Pantry fully into the Twenty-First Century — and he got to work.
“I use Excel for my data base and Visual Basic Applications/graphic automatic macros for writing computer code,” Mecsko says.
Using various computer tools, Mecsko can identify how many clients came to the pantry, whether these individuals lived alone, and, if their households had children. He can also identify veterans among the clients.
“As the Pantry expanded, we have been able to expand our program to keep track of everything,” Mecsko says.
“I used to spend hours every night going through new papers, taking out old, making copies for our two groups,” Anita explains. “Then once every new fiscal year, which is from July until June, we must have all new paperwork, which was so tedious and time consuming.”
“Now, Jim does all the client record keeping,” says Tom.
“I like to help others, if I see a need,” Mecsko says. “After I retired, I was looking for a sense of purpose, which is why I came to the Pantry.”
“Anita and I are so lucky to have Jim as our volunteer — and as our friend,” says Bullaro.
According to Robin Ingles, CEO, Seniors in Service, The Hero of Service award was given to Mecsko for his outstanding service and dedication to his community, and his commitment to Seniors in Service.
“We thank you for the extraordinary service and accomplishments.”