Record donations for Caring Castle food drive

HH-Caring-Castle-logoBy KEVIN BRADY

South County opened its wallets and pantries in record number last month for the Have A Heart Caring Castle community food drive.

This year’s food drive brought in 3,400 pounds of donations, 800 pounds more than in 2014, Caring Castle’s inaugural year.

When the drive started, said Rosie Korfant, “I was on pins and needles and worried [about donations]. But once the stories hit the paper and people read about and saw who the people were who needed these things, [donations picked up].” Korfant, activities coordinator at JSA Medical, came up with the idea for the drive. Free ads on WFLA Channel 8 and a new drop-off barrel at Winn-Dixie in Sun City Center also played a big part, she said.

As the donations poured in, Korfant wasn’t as much surprised as reaffirmed. “I never had a doubt about the generosity of this community,” she said.

Caring Castle was co-sponsored by JSA Medical Group, WFLA Ch. 8 and The Observer News, The SCC Observer, The Current and M & M Printing. The drive ran from Feb. 1 through Feb. 28, a time when the needs of the hungry sometimes fade from the community consciousness and some pantries have a hard time keeping their shelves stocked, according to local food bank managers.

The Lord’s Lighthouse food pantry picking up their portion of the donations.

The Lord’s Lighthouse food pantry picking up their portion of the donations.

John Custode, manager of Sun City Center’s Winn-Dixie store, was just one of the people who made for a record-breaking drive, Korfant said. Custode placed a large donation bin — donated by Home Depot — outside his store. It became a popular drop-off point for donations. The Observer, which donated weekly editorial space and design services to the drive, also created large wraps for donation barrels making “it look like a NASCAR car,” Korfant said.

“I want to do anything we can to give back to the community anyway we can,” Custode said as the drive kicked off.

Ziad Kazbour, of BubbaQue’s in Sun City Center, was in Louisiana when contacted by Korfant, but made sure that his manager, Jason Kazbour, dropped off a large donation of canned goods for the drive to help boost the drive in its final days.

“We just like to help the community out,” Jason Kazbour said.

Manny Roussos, of the Sunshine Café on Sun City Center Boulevard, also donated to the drive. “I wish we could have done more,” Roussos said.

Members of one of Lynne Sells’ Sun City Center yoga classes donated to the food drive.

Members of one of Lynne Sells’ Sun City Center yoga classes donated to the food drive.

Lynne Sells runs yoga classes at JSA Medical and in Sun City Center and celebrated her birthday Feb. 23 with the food drive in mind.

Sells told her students: “I am asking for a special present from you. Before you come to yoga class, pull one box or can of food off your pantry shelf and bring it to class with you.” The result was a major donation for the food drive.

Darlene Meadows’ line dance classes at JSA Medical also helped in a similar fashion.

The staff at JSA Medical also got in on the food drive with a “Jeans for Beans” campaign where any staff members who donated to the drive were allowed to wear jeans for a day.

Korfant also thanked Sun City Center radio station 96.3 FM for its public-service announcements and several live segments and interviews promoting the drive.

Matt Larson, WFLA’s community affairs manager, also featured the food drive on numerous promotional spots on News Channel 8 during sweeps month in February, a time when airtime is at a premium, pointed out Korfant, a TV industry veteran.

Saint Anne Catholic Church Food Pantry volunteers load up their portion of the donations.

Saint Anne Catholic Church Food Pantry volunteers load up their portion of the donations.

Food banks benefiting from the drive are The Lord’s Lighthouse, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Good Samaritan Mission, Beth-El Mission, Saint Anne Catholic Church Food Pantry and Life Church. New to the list of beneficiaries this year are the Community Cupboard of Calvary Lutheran Church and the Mary & Martha House, a shelter providing emergency and transitional housing and support services to abused and homeless women and their dependent children.

The success of the Caring Castle drive is also inspiring others, with at least one prominent South County civic club and a local hospital planning their own food drives. “People are now coming to us, looking at our project as a model,” Korfant said.

Calvary Community Cupboard accepted donations of nonperishable foods.

Calvary Community Cupboard accepted donations of nonperishable foods.

Plans are already underway for next year’s food drive with plans for more drop-off points at local grocery stores.

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