The fourth in a series of articles on South County food pantries benefiting from the “Have A Heart Caring Castle” community food drive.
For almost two decades, St. Anne Community Outreach Food Pantry worked from a two-car garage with 60 volunteers serving an average of 400 families every week. That changed on Valentine’s Day last year when the pantry moved into a 4,000-square-foot building.
“We’ve been able to offer a lot more food because we have a larger storage facility now,” said Paul Wiskitoni. “People are able to now walk through and take the kind of bread they like, for example. It’s not shopping, but they will be able to see what they have before they get home,” said Wiskitoni, who has managed the pantry for four years.
The quality and volume of food has also increased, with St. Anne distributing a minimum of 10,000 pounds of food weekly. Customers, on average, receive two bags of food containing canned and pouched goods as well as bakery items and meat.
As word has gotten out, the numbers turning out each Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon has gone up, with five percent more seniors this year compared to 2015, Wiskitoni said. The pantry also serves the homeless on Wednesday during those hours. It also opens its door to the homeless on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m., with an emphasis on foods that don’t need to be cooked for those living on the street.
Gil Mosher, an almost full-time volunteer at the pantry for the last four years, has seen the numbers increase since 2012.
“We were operating out of a two-car garage for years, but we needed a much bigger facility and we have that now,” said Mosher. “I would say the numbers served by the pantry has more than doubled in the last four years.”
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that can spike to 450 to 480 families a week, Mosher added.
“It’s just a growing need and [my wife and I] enjoy giving back. We have been very fortunate so we want to give back. It’s very satisfying.”
Mosher has also noticed more elderly customers turning out every Wednesday. “A lot of our recipients are older people who have outlived their pension and make tough choices between food, medicine and paying for electricity.”
“We are also probably seeing more of the working poor,” Wiskitoni added.
Wiskitoni said the pantry is grateful to be a “recipient of the Caring Castle’s goodness” in thanking the organizers of the food drive.
St. Anne’s pantry welcomes volunteers. For more information, call 813 645-1714 or visit www.saintanneruskin.org
Where to donate to Caring Castle
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.
“Magnificent,” is how JSA’s Rosie Korfant described the response to the food drive so far. Korfant came up with the idea for the food drive. “We have a castle that really looks likes a castle,” she said. “The columns, which we use as silos (for storing some of the food donations) are filled and we are now going five (rows) deep rather than two as we did last year. It is almost stupendous.”
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 recipients:
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.
For more information, call Rosie Korfant at 813-419-5020 or email email@example.com.