St. Pete, FL

Feed St. Pete

Our long time client, Pinellas Community Church, needed a project leader to develop a solution for their recently established Food Pantry.  This building was 100% paid for through private donation and receives donated food that is now serving 100 people per week with a week's worth of food.  Church volunteers receive, sort and distribute the food weekly.  It was our humble privilege to donate our services and lead the Construction Team to the final solution.  The metal building is not only attractive and fits into the existing campus, but is expandable to meet future needs.  It was an honor to serve the Church on this invaluable community project.  An article from the Tampa Tribune covering the Dedication Ceremony accompanies this project summary.

Members of Pinellas Community Church and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster gathered around a warehouse in the church parking lot Sunday afternoon — posing for pictures, taking videos with cellphones and thanking God for the church’s good fortune.

The building is empty for now, but represents the progress the church has made in a 10-month campaign to feed the hungry in the south St. Petersburg area. Through the church’s FEED St. Pete campaign, volunteers have provided food to more than 7,000 people, one-third of whom are children.

Since the church of about 600 members began collecting food in March, the program has grown from a 75-square-foot pantry to the new 2,000-square-foot warehouse — an $80,000 building paid for completely from donations.

“Right now we have so much food that we’ve been keeping it in our preschool Sunday school rooms and cranking the air down overnight,” said Pastor Mark Canfield. “We want to touch people’s hearts, and I think part of that is not just sharing with them in their material needs, but showing compassion for the other needs in their life. … This is literally about keeping people alive.”

From 5 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday, anywhere from 20 to 45 volunteers serve meals to about 100 people, making this pantry the largest one in the south St. Petersburg area, Mayor Foster said. The “clients” usually show up at the church around noon to get a ticket for the 5 p.m. meal and provide some documentation of the number of people in their family. As they eat their meal, clients also select food to take home with them for the week and talk with church counselors about any issues weighing on their minds.

Canfield said the church can feed a family of four for a week at a cost of only $10. The church is partnered with Feeding America, a national charity that allows them to purchase food for pennies on the dollar and also provides free donations whenever available. In addition to collecting donations at the church, volunteers often spend the week driving between Feeding America food warehouses in Clearwater and Tampa and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic to collect everything from fresh produce to diapers. But church member Pat Payne said the hours spent volunteering have already allowed her to witness miracles.

“We’ve had big events with Feeding America where people have lined up around the building for food, and the last one we almost ran short,” Payne said. “But by the end I started crying because we found another crate of food in one of the trucks. They had cut off the cars because they thought we were out of food, but then we were able to feed the rest of the line, which had poured out into the street.” The warehouse was built to be expanded upon as the program grows, Canfield said, and estimated that there are more than 150,000 in need of a constant food source in the St. Petersburg area.

While it’s been easy for the city to address the chronic homeless, the hungry are harder to identify said Foster, who donned a bright yellow FEED St. Pete T-shirt as he led the church in prayer during the Sunday service.

“Not everybody who is hungry is homeless. They live in their homes and they’re struggling to make ends meet and they look just like us,” Foster said to the congregation. “It’s hard to talk to somebody about the love of God when their stomach is rumbling.”

Article by Anastasia Dawson
Tampa Tribune, Jan. 14, 2013