Whether writing a check, or helping to pack groceries for our families, many hands go into the operation that allows Our Lady's Pantry to thrive. This has been a super year for Our Lady's Pantry and we have SO many to thank.
Gifts of money
The Interfaith Council of Sun City Center
The Interfaith Council has been a steady supporter of Our Lady's Pantry for many years and this year is no exception. Through proceeds from the sales of donated items sold by the Nearly New Shop, the Interfaith Council recently provided us with a check for $10,000 to use for food for the poor and underserved in our community. If you have ever donated to, or purchased items through the Nearly New Shop, you have had a role to play in this gift!
For the second year in a row, Publix Charities has awarded Our Lady's Pantry a generous gift of $10,000 to help alleviate hunger in our community. This year's gift helped to cover the costs of converting an open portico into an enclosed air-conditioned space with electricity for our freezers, along with additional shelving for food. It also helped with the cost of converting a semi-trailer, donated to the Pantry, into a walk-in cooler.
Monetary gifts were also received from the following organizations during the past year:
- $5,000 — The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany
- $5,000 — The Couch Family
- $1,000 — The Diocese of St. Petersburg: Rice Bowl collection
- $1,000 — The Sun City Social Club
Piggybacking on formal grant monies are the monthly Project Hunger donations from Our Lady of Guadalupe and Prince of Peace, which amounted to an amazing $44,000 this past year! Special thanks to the Knights of Columbus for their role in in collecting the donations from Project Hunger for the Pantry. Countless individual checks received from residents of this community further enabled us to purchase nutrient-rich food for our families throughout the year.
Gifts of food
- Project Hunger food donations from Our Lady of Guadalupe and Prince of Peace.
- The Sun City Social Club -- Charity event in April.
- Post Office Food Drive in May.
- Valencia Lakes food collection.
- Donations from Publix, Aldi's, Big Lots, Costco, Sam's Club, Winn-Dixie, Amazon, and Sodexo Quality of Life Services, in Tampa.
- And last but not least, Sav-A-Lot's “Give Back, Give-a-Bag Program” made it easy for our neighbors to personally donate to Our Lady's Pantry this past holiday season. In all, caring customers purchased a stunning 322 bags through this Program for their neighbors, to ensure they had a holiday feast for their family and friends!
But gifts to Our Lady's Pantry are no longer limited to cash, checks, and food, says Anita Bullaro, co-director of the Pantry with her husband Tom.
“People just keep coming and coming into the Pantry to do very kind things for us and our families,” she says. "For example, shortly before Christmas, parishioners from St. Stephen's Catholic Church, in Riverview, gifted us with not one but two car loads of presents for the children, along with a ton of cookies.
“The folks from St. Stephen's said they had heard a lot about the good work we are doing and wanted to help!” says Bullaro. “The children were SO surprised and SO happy.”
The children were surprised again when a couple of weeks later, Bee Swol, 96, one of our seniors, sent in many dozens of afghans to keep children warm and toasty in winter. Swol had been crocheting these afghans all year to give to the children when the weather got cold.
“Many kids opened the afghans and wrapped themselves in them immediately,” says Bullaro. “It was like a cozy hug. Clearly a gift of love! And the afghans are large -- about 40-inches square -- and so beautiful.
“One way or another, Our Lady's Pantry has been covered in kindness,” says Bullaro.
“We could never do this work without so many helping hands from throughout the community -- and beyond,” says Bullaro. “Each one of you is amazing and we thank you again for everything you do for us!”