Thank you, South County! Caring Castle food drive brings in record-breaking donations

By KEVIN BRADY

Organizers built a castle using canned goods and other nonperishable food as “bricks” as donations arrived at JSA Medical’s Sun City Center Office. The castle was redesigned and rebuilt weekly as donations rolled in. Organizers already have plans to add four more collection points for next year’s drive. Roseanne Korfant photo.

Organizers built a castle using canned goods and other nonperishable food as “bricks” as donations arrived at JSA Medical’s Sun City Center Office. The castle was redesigned and rebuilt weekly as donations rolled in. Organizers already have plans to add four more collection points for next year’s drive.
Roseanne Korfant photo.

For the second year running, the Have a Heart Caring Castle food drive has brought in a record-breaking amount of food, thanks to the generosity of the South County community. Now in its third year, the drive benefits local food pantries that feed more than 7,000 young and old South County residents every week.

This year’s drive brought in approximately 4,000 pounds of food stuffs, a 1,000-pound increase over last year’s total.

“We had volunteers packing and storing from Toronto, Niagara on the Lakes, Sun City Center, Connecticut, Riverview and Wimauma — all agreeing this project was the most gratifying effort and they were delighted to be a part of it,” said Roseanne Korfant of Sun City Center’s JSA Medical Group. Korfant launched the food drive in 2014 in partnership with M&M Printing, the parent company of The Observer News. Also backing the food drive were News Channel 8 and Home Depot.

“We had more sites this year plus more publicity this year,” said Korfant, who is already looking ahead to next year with four new donation sites lined up and more publicity planned.

The food drive ran through February, with donations dropped at two JSA Medical locations in Sun City Center, and two Winn-Dixie stores in Sun City Center and Ruskin.

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

Don Jones helped construct a “castle” as donations rolled in throughout February, using cans and bags of food as his construction materials.

“I knew since I handled almost every can that we had more food than last year, and sure enough, it showed up in the final total,” said Jones, who has worked on the project since 2014. “It was certainly the best one we have ever built. Just having an opportunity to give back to the community, [whether it’s] seniors or families who are a little down on their luck,” was Jones’ reward.

Dora Cruz of The Lord’s Lighthouse, which distributes food Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Church of God, 5801 Hickman St. in Wimauma, was grateful for the donations.

“Many people still don’t know we are there,” said Cruz, who runs the program with her husband, William. “We have been going to the (migrant worker) camps and letting them know if they are not working, they can come and get a food basket.” The group also holds services at the church on Sunday at 11 a.m., opening the pantry at 12:30 p.m. Visitors need not attend services to receive a food basket. For more information, call 813-641-7100 or 813-373-2172.

The Calvary Lutheran Community Cupboard, 5309 U.S. 41 N. in Apollo Beach, started in the 1970s serving hungry travelers along U.S. 41. Last month, the group served an average of 401 visitors every Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m., said Mert Janovec, who has overseen the pantry for the last four years.

“When I first started, if we put out 150 bags a week (that was a lot). Now if we don’t do 400 bags a week we think we didn’t get anything done,” Janovec said. The pantry is answering that increased demand and is currently in the permitting process to add a new walk-in cooler/freezer, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation’s South Shore Council. “We just continue to grow.” For more information on the Community Cupboard, call 813-645-1305.

For more information or to help with next year’s effort, call Rosie Korfant at 813-419-5020 or email r.korfant@jsahealthcare.com.

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