Pantry director receives Hero of Service Volunteer Award from Seniors in Service

At a dinner on March 21 honoring Seniors in Service volunteers throughout Sun City Center, Tom Bullaro was named as the recipient of The Hero of Service Volunteer of the Year, by Chris Noble, Seniors in Service community manager for Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties.

“Mr. Bullaro is the coordinator of Our Lady’s Pantry,” Nobel told the group.  “He and his wife, Anita run an-all volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, Our Lady’s Pantry.  They serve families in Apollo Beach, Balm, Gibsonton, Riverview, Ruskin, Wimauma, and Sun City Center!”

Noble went on to explain that on Tuesday and Friday’s mornings, volunteers arrive at the Pantry in Wimauma at 6 a.m. to drive trucks all over the County to pick up food.  Other volunteers then sort and package the food when the trucks return, storing it on shelves and in the cooler or freezer until Saturday.

On Saturday mornings, volunteers arrive as early as 5 a.m. to prepare for the day, unloading fresh produce and frozen foods.  Indoors, other volunteers are packing non-perishable foods into boxes for families.  Pantry doors open at 7:30 a.m., to begin delivering nutritious food to clients’ cars.  Our Lady Pantry serves an average 300 individuals and families in need every Saturday morning.

“I visit three counties in my work, and Our Lady’s Pantry is one of the best-run pantries in Tampa Bay,” says Noble.

“Thank you, Mr. Bullaro, for your leadership and ongoing contribution to the community.  You make such a difference in people’s lives.  Seniors in Service is privileged to have you and Our Lady Pantry as one of our partners!”

Man in the middle receiving award. Man to the left and woman to the right. All happy faces.

Tom Bullaro accepting his Hero of Service Award from Chris Noble, Seniors in Service (Left),
and Debbie Caneen, Southshore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging (Right).

Bullaro set down roots at Our Lady’s Pantry 19 years ago after he retired from his career as a home builder in Pennsylvania and moved with Anita to Florida.

He speaks now of the phenomenal growth of the Pantry from 1999, when it served about 25 families a week, to 2004 when he arrived, when they served twice that number.  It’s been growing ever since.

“This past week, in fact, we distributed food to 371 individuals and families,” he says.  “This is the largest number we ever served on a single Saturday morning in 23 years!”

Bullaro says that the Pantry has grown because of this amazing community with hundreds of passionate volunteers and supporters over the years.

“Together with a can-do spirit and countless hours of hard physical work, often in the heat, but also in the freezing cold mornings last winter, we’ve been able to take in and give out a stunning 900 tons of food each year to fight against hunger.

“Without the help of so very many hands, along with the financial support of countless individuals and organizations, we could never do this work.

“We thank the hundreds of individuals who have donated their time and treasure to help those less fortunate than themselves.  You have helped us thrive all these many years.”