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JSA Medical, Observer News publications partner for major food drive

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Organizers plan to build a castle with donations, using canned goods and other non-perishable foodstuffs as bricks. The castle will be redesigned and rebuilt weekly as donations roll in.

By KEVIN BRADY
 
A community-wide food drive benefiting several major food banks throughout South County is slated to begin Feb. 1.

“Have A Heart Caring Castle,” the brainchild of Roseanne Korfant of Sun City Center’s JSA Medical Group, aims to not only feed South County’s burgeoning number of hungry families but raise awareness of an issue all too often forgotten after the holiday season.

“People donate food and remember the needs of the hungry at Christmastime but when Christmas is over you still have the same hungry people yet we don’t have as many focused food drives. So I thought this would be a good way not only to include the food pantries but to include ‘Have a Heart,’ the American Heart Association’s theme for February,” Korfant said.

However, the month-long food drive is about more than just collecting food. Organizers hope the event builds awareness and relationships that benefit food banks and hungry families year-round.

“We are going to do this in February, but who is going to do it in June and July? I would really hope this helps the pantries initiate and maintain new relationships because that’s the only way we are going to survive,” said Korfant, JSA Medical’s activities coordinator.

The SCC Observer, The Observer News, and The Riverview Current, which are backing the effort with design, print and editorial support, will provide weekly updates on the amount of food collected and feature stories on the food banks benefiting from the effort.

We are looking to give back to the community and replenish the food banks in the area especially at this time of year

The Observer has always been a community newspaper and looked to give back to the community where we can so when they came up with this idea we thought it would be good for us to get involved and help out,” said Wes Mullins, CEO of M&M Printing, parent company of The Observer News.

Following the progress of the drive will be easy for anyone dropping off donations at the JSA Activity Center, 787 Cortaro Dr. in Sun City Center.

Organizers plan to build a castle with donations, using canned goods and other non-perishable foodstuffs as bricks. The castle will be redesigned and rebuilt weekly as donations roll in.

Korfant pioneered the food castle idea while working with the Chamber of Commerce in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I thought building a castle with the donations would be a little more spectacular way to show the donations. We even had folks from the American Institute of Architects come in and build it on their lunch breaks.”

The castle concept proved to be a winner. Over 10 weeks it yielded more than 16,000 pounds of foodstuffs for Cleveland pantries.

Local food banks benefiting from South County’s first Caring Castle include The Lord’s Lighthouse, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Good Samaritan Mission, Beth-El Mission, St. Anne Church and Life Church.

There is no shortage of need, according to Tom Bullaro, co-director of Our Lady of Guadalupe food pantry with his wife Anita for the last nine years. The pantry serves an average of 170 families a week in Sun City Center, Wimauma and Balm.

“This time last year our average was about 110 families a week,” said Bullaro who cites food stamp cutbacks and unemployment among the pressures driving more families to his door.

“We serve a lot of migrant food pickers who may only be here for a couple of weeks or months and then they are gone, but on average we get about 20 new families a week who sign up,” said Bullaro.

The pantry, which gives each family a 40- to 50-pound box of food every two weeks, has more than 1,200 families signed up for aid.

“I have to look at the big picture and see how much food we have to distribute,” said Bullaro, who credits community volunteer efforts for keeping the wolf from the door of local pantries.

“You feel so bad when people come in here; you want to give them the shirt off your back,” Bullaro said.

Korfant wants to help Bullaro, and those like him, stock their shelves year-round.  

“I would hope that every pantry would get beaucoup pounds of foodstuffs. But beyond that we want to generate excitement about what the community is doing for its own and also encourage folks to continue to do this,” Korfant said.

Caring Castle is about building awareness and relationships with “those people who can help the pantries and for those people who need the help to let them know where to go. JSA wants to promote a healthy lifestyle so this is also an overall part of lifestyle awareness as well.”

Where to donate
Canned and non-perishable food stuffs can be donated at the JSA Activity Center, 787 Cortaro Dr., Sun City Center, behind the Burger King on SR 674.

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