PUBLISHED AUG. 4, 2016
Gift enables Community Cupboard to supply healthier food packages
By LOIS KINDLE
A $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay to Calvary Lutheran Church recently enabled its food panty to expand its offerings. The money was used to help purchase a 260-square-foot walk-in cooler/freezer to store meats and fresh produce.
The money came from the foundation’s unrestricted Durward and Janet Siville Fund, which was established by the couple in 1995 to improve the quality of life of South Shore residents.
“The unit cost about $22,000,” said Paula Sabo, longtime business manager of both Community Cupboard (the food pantry) and Calvary’s Angel Attic thrift store. “The entire project, which included concrete for the slab, permitting, engineering and cages for the compressors and motors was over $36,000.”
The cooler/freezer was placed outdoors on the east side of the cupboard at 1424 College Ave. E., Ruskin. And due to the fact that trailers have been stolen four times over the past 10 years (twice in 2015), security was upgraded to include motion lights and other deterrence equipment.
“The unit now enables us to add frozen meats purchased from Feeding Tampa Bay and excess produce from area farmers to weekly food bags we supply to more than 400 families,” Sabo said. “That’s 1,900 people, plus an additional 25 to 35 homeless folks per week.”
By way of comparison, when the cupboard moved in 2005 from the Apollo Beach church, it was serving 25 to 75 families. Sabo said that number now fluctuates between 400 and 490, and more than 600 families receive food during Calvary’s annual Thanks for Giving event in November.
“We give out 8,000 to 9,000 pounds of food weekly,” said Jim Wise, Community Cupboard’s operations manager.
“The new cooler/freezer will help us serve even more people in the future,” Sabo said. “But it immediately enables us to give each family a meat item, as available, and fresh produce, in addition to bread and canned or boxed foods.”
That’s a huge plus for the cupboard, which is open Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m.
“In the past, Feeding Tampa Bay would call and say it had a pallet or two (about 2,000 pounds) of meat, and we had to turn it down because we couldn’t store it,” Wise said. “We get an extreme discount on any food from (the organization), but the cupboard needs cash to pay for it.”
Donations of cash to the all-volunteer cupboard for food purchases come from Calvary Lutheran Church congregants, individuals in the surrounding community and area houses of worship. Its operational expenses are completely covered by sales proceeds at Angel Attic, also an all-volunteer effort.
“Destiny Church in Ruskin has held a food drive for us every quarter for the past several years,” Sabo said, adding the cupboard gets additional help from special fundraising efforts. “We received 300 pounds of nonperishable foods and $2,800 from a concert held by nine Sun City Center houses of worship earlier this year.”
These included Beth Israel Jewish Congregation, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Prince of Peace Catholic Church and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Folks who receive food from the pantry provide their names, addresses, signatures and number of family members. Other than that, “their honesty (regarding need) is between them and God,” Sabo said.
“This isn’t the first time the foundation has supported us,” Sabo said. “Over the years, it has given us several grants to help purchase food. Without its help, and that of other organizations like it, we would not be able to do what we do. We greatly appreciate the foundation’s support.”
To make a tax-deductible donation to the food pantry, send a check made payable to Calvary Lutheran Church, earmarked for Community Cupboard, to 5309 U.S. 41 N., Apollo Beach, FL 33572.