The Community Foundation, a key supporter of Our Lady’s Pantry for many years, has been encouraging food pantries to offer more services to our clients than simply providing nutritious food.
“But we’ve been doing that all along,” says director Tom Bullaro, pointing to our very own John William.
Those who have been coming to the Pantry for any length of time already know William. Seated across from the registration desk, William is among the first to greet our clients each week.
Here, for more than seven years already, he unravels the mystery of Medicaid and Medicare Advantage Programs for our clients, answering all their questions.
“Lots of people are wondering if they qualify for Medicaid, especially,” William says. “They don’t know how to get information, however. I explain their options and help them fill out an application, if they qualify. People are really grateful.”
William, who also works at other food banks and doctor offices, is fluent in other languages besides English, too. Born and raised in Haiti and then New York (Queens), then finally moving to Miami, he is comfortable with Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole.
Importantly, William provides his services at no cost.
“People sometimes call me during the week,” says William. “I’ve even been to homes. I do whatever I can to help people. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I’ve been blessed and just want to give back.”
Bullaro is anxious to provide other services for individuals and families who come to Our Lady’s Pantry, but speaks to the problem of so little space.
“We do have our big thrift shop, across the Campus, next to the Mission,” he says. “But we are limited in what else we can do at this time. That’s because we are working out of a couple of classrooms. We are hopeful of having a stand-alone Pantry on the Mission Campus one day, however. We envision something like the stand-alone Pantry at St. Anne’s, in Ruskin.”