RiverStone Church pantry helps mom break cycle of poverty

Published on: February 10, 2016


The food pantry at RiverStone served 2,125 families last year. RiverStone Church photo.

The food pantry at RiverStone served 2,125 families last year. RiverStone Church photo.

In between jobs and trying to feed five children, a local mom found food and faith at RiverStone Church in Gibsonton.

With a 30-day notice that she was losing her job, L.V. (she did not want her name used in this story), would be waiting weeks for food stamps or unemployment insurance.

“As a parent I felt like I was failing,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion as she recalled having to tell her children the family would not be able to buy the same food they had when she was working. “When they said, ‘Mom, can we get yogurt at the store?’ and you have to say no, it hurts.”

She had seen signs for RiverStone’s pantry and going there has changed her life. The pantry, where she now volunteers, helped her through the tough times — she was out of work for a year — and today she is working full time and attending the church that helped change her life.

“It’s like a church family,” she said.

Have-a-Heart-Castle-onlyRiverStone’s pantry helped more than 2,000 people in the Riverview and Gibsonton area and is one of seven South County pantries benefiting from the Have a Heart Caring Castle food drive. Now in its third year, organizers are hoping to exceed the 2015 total by at least 50 percent.

RiverStone launched its pantry in 2012 under the leadership of Bill Hayes, who initially did his shopping for the pantry at Walmart, said Billie Carr, who runs the food pantry today. The pantry is open on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 9 a.m. to noon at RiverStone, 12011 E. Bay Road, Gibsonton.

“The Lord just put it in his [Haye’s] heart that we needed to do something in this community and the food pantry was born,” Carr said. “As word got out, it just exploded from there. I really want to give credit to him.”

Visitors get a bag of food — enough to last a family for two days — and can also look through a table of clothing and other donated items.

Last year, the pantry served 2,125 families. “That’s just families, so it’s a lot more people than that,” Carr said.

Carr has been devoting more than 20 hours a week to the pantry, a place where her husband Jake says she is living her faith. “He tells me ‘you don’t realize how much you shine doing what you do there.’”

Growing up in a “very loving family where we lived paycheck to paycheck,” Carr can relate to the travails of those who use the pantry.

Where to donate  

The food drive runs through Feb. 29. Donations can be dropped off at two JSA Medical locations: 787 Cortaro Drive and 781 Cypress Creek Blvd., both in Sun City Center, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donation bins will also be out at two Winn-Dixie stores, 4445 Sun City Center Blvd. and 1023 U.S. 41 in Ruskin.

The food drive started in 2014, a partnership of JSA Medical and The Observer News/M&M Printing. Also backing the food drive are News Channel 8 and Home Depot.

Food Banks:

Local food banks benefiting from the food drive are: The Lord’s Lighthouse, Our Lady’s Pantry, Good Samaritan Mission, Beth-El Mission, St. Anne Church, Calvary Lutheran Community Cupboard and RiverStone Church.

Organizers hope to raise more than 5,000 pounds of food this year, a 1,600-pound increase over the 2015 total.

For more information, call Rosie Korfant at 813-419-5020 or email r.korfant@jsahealthcare.com.

Pantry Blessings recipe:

L.V., a local mom of five, ages 10 to 16, came up with this recipe. Since pantries rarely have the prime, white meat cuts of chicken, she came up with this recipe using the dark meat portions of the bird. Her children were not thrilled with the dark meat at first, but it’s now a family favorite she calls Pantry Blessings.

Chicken leg quarters, slow-roasted at 200 degrees
Canned or fresh potatoes and carrots, cut and placed in a roasting dish over the chicken
Add seasoning (garlic, pepper, Italian seasoning)

“I stick it in the oven and go to church at 10 a.m. and when we come home at around noon, it just smells like ‘yum,’” she said. “They [her children] didn’t like the dark meat before, but now they ask for it.”