RUSKIN – Thanks to the support of the community, Saint Anne Catholic Church is building a new food pantry. Benefactors include parishioners, the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center, South Shore Council of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, The Simmons Foundation and individual donors. McLeod Construction will begin work on the $150,000, 4,000 square-foot pantry in June.
Saint Anne Catholic Church in Ruskin opened its original food pantry in 1993 to service 95 households in southern Hillsborough County. That number has risen to an average of 400 households every Wednesday and an additional 400 on the fourth Thursday of the month.
Twenty-five to 30 volunteers, including five to six just to direct traffic, work each week to help assemble and distribute more than 6,000 pounds of canned goods, meat and fresh produce to area residents in need. Feeding America, the Publix and Winn Dixie supermarkets in Sun City Center and private donations help supply the food. The Rev. John F. McEvoy, pastor of Saint Anne’s, stops by the pantry each Wednesday to ensure everything is running smoothly.
“As our parish prayer says, we are committed to following Christ’s example by using our time, talent and resources in reaching out to the poor, feeding the hungry and creating a legacy of faith and hope for future generations,” he said. “Our volunteers are hard workers and dedicated.”
Volunteers currently utilize a total of 750 square feet in two bays of a three-bay garage next to the parish to store and distribute food. Sulema Perales of Ruskin, a 12-year volunteer, arrives at 6:30 a.m. to begin the process of organizing supplies for sorting and bagging. She doesn’t consider what she does to be work. She said she does it to help those in need and is grateful to do it.
“We do the best we can with the one large cooler, three freezers and limited storage space,” said Bill Richards Jr., a new volunteer from Valrico and son of original volunteers, Elaine and Bill Richards Sr. A walk-in cooler, donated by a florist, is being rebuilt to help store perishables.
Weather permitting, the new pantry should open by Christmas, said McEvoy.
“This is our legacy of hope for future generations,” he said.
Saint Anne Catholic Church is at 106 11th Avenue NE, Ruskin. For more information, call (813) 645-1714 or visit saintanneruskin.org.
Dosi Loverro is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]