PUBLISHED SEPT. 8, 2016
By LOIS KINDLE
The working poor often don’t have the safety net of family and friends to help them make ends meet when something unexpected happens. They live paycheck to paycheck, and a job loss, illness or large automobile repair can quickly put them behind in their rent, utilities or car payments.
Their safety net is the St. Anne Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a faith-based charity serving local folks in need.
“The [nonprofit] organization is their someplace to go, when there’s no other place to go,” said Richard Ricca, conference president. “There are thousands of families that just get by on incomes of less than $400 per week. They’re living on the edge, and they come to us when their backs are against the wall.”
On Sept. 24 the conference is hosting its third annual Friends of the Poor Walk to raise funds for its mission of temporarily providing help to families struggling to make ends meet.
Registration is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at St. Anne Catholic Church, 106 11th Ave. N.E., Ruskin. A brief opening ceremony will follow.
The walk itself is set to begin at 10 a.m. Participants will head south along U.S. 41 to College Avenue, and then return to the church for a community-wide party.
This free, festive event will include burgers, hot dogs, soft drinks; antique and classic cars show; children’s games and activities, including inflatables and a bubble machine; singers, guitarists and a DJ.
“We’re hoping those who walk will get sponsors, but it’s not required,” Ricca said. “We’re requesting that everyone who comes brings a happy attitude with them. Raising awareness, funding our efforts to help the poor and sharing a bit of happiness are the goals of the day.”
To register in advance, sponsor a walker or make a donation, visit http://bit.ly/2bOp3VF. For additional information, call Marisa Casado at 813-419-4588 or the church at 813-645-1714.
Proceeds from the walk will enable the nonprofit group to continue offering assistance with sudden expenses jeopardizing a family’s living arrangements or safety. This can include financial help for medical care or prescriptions, emergency food and payments for utilities or rent when there is a threat of cutoff or eviction.
Last year the St. Anne Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul assisted about 940 Hillsborough County residents living in the St. Anne Catholic Church parish area, which covers Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Ruskin and Sun City all the way south to the Manatee County line.
It provided $44,830 in total aid to help 40 families avoid eviction and 92 families make utility payments. It also covered temporary shelter for 30 families and other forms of assistance for 21 others.
“About 75 percent of what we do goes toward keeping families in place,” Ricca said. “If you can get a struggling family over a bump when it’s ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ then they’re able to get back on track and hopefully maintain their budget again.”
The all-volunteer conference also helps the homeless and transient, provides assistance with medical expenses and sometimes helps pay for things like the cost of renewing a professional license for employment.
The first St. Anne Conference Walk for the Poor in 2014 raised $9,000. Last year’s effort brought in $17,000 and this year’s goal is $25,000.
The charity operates solely on donations and occasional grants from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Ninety-eight percent of all funding is disbursed in aid.
Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the St. Anne Catholic Church office. For information, call 813-645-0304 or 813-410-6426.