The magic of new beginnings

Mahatma Gandhi once pointed out that “there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” he urged.

Some 24 years ago, Dolores Clark must have read Gandhi’s words — and she had an idea.  She wanted to be that change she saw in her world.  She wanted to fight hunger in our community.  Clark shared her idea with the Knights of Columbus and their wives.  Together, they made a plan.

They would take up a monthly collection among parishioners that they would call Project Hunger.  They would then use those dollars to buy nutritious food and store it in the little room in back of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission.  They would give the food out in the vestibule after Mass on Sundays to anyone who needed it.

And so it was that in December 1999, Our Lady’s Pantry was born in the vestibule of the Mission.  Thanks to the magic of new beginnings, the passion of the Knights of Columbus and their wives, and the generosity of parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe and Prince of Peace, 25 families went home with food that very first week.  And so, it began.

Before long, word spread, with more and more families coming for food.  Soon, so limited with space, the Pantry moved to the classroom building, where it grew and grew and grew.

Today, an average 300 clients come each Saturday for food to take home for themselves and their families.

“But what began as a simple gesture to fight food insecurity has taken on all the complexities and operational costs of big business,” says director Tom Bullaro.

“Our operating costs are huge,” he says.  “We work on a fiscal year basis and have just calculated our costs for the past fiscal year, which was July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.

“We spent a stunning $88,756 for food these past 12 months!  This reflects an 80 percent increase over our cost for food the previous fiscal year.”

According to Bullaro, transportation costs are significant, as well.  Pantry trucks are on the road almost every day, gathering food from all over the county, not just for Our Lady’s Pantry, but for other pantries that don't have refrigerated trucks. The Pantry purchased a new refrigerated truck this past year, thanks to a huge bequest by a former Pantry volunteer, along with an amazing community effort, he says.  That new truck cost $107,000.  Beyond that, however, maintenance on two old trucks cost $11,474, fuel cost $10,422, insurance cost $2,166!

Further costs include maintenance on the Pantry’s walk-in cooler ($466) and freezer ($488).  These costs are reasonable only because repair work is done in-house by knowledgeable volunteers, saving the Pantry thousands of dollars over hiring contractors to do this work.

“We so appreciate the support of the community and the many hundreds of amazing volunteers who have worked so hard since 1999 keeping our Pantry doors open every single week since 1999, even during COVID.  We could never fight hunger in this community without all the donations we receive and so very many helping hands, not to mention the magic called Divine Providence.”

Our Lady’s Pantry is located at 16650 U.S. Highway 301 South, in Wimauma, just across from Aldi’s.   To learn more about our non-profit, please visit us at:   Be sure to scroll down on the home page to check out the two-minute video produced by Fox13News last fall.  “Our Lady’s Pantry serves tremendous need in Tampa Bay.”