Feeding those in need during the COVID-19 crisis

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — To provide a much-needed boost to the community, Pinellas Technical College (PTC) and Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission held a food giveaway last Saturday at the college’s St. Petersburg campus. If you were unable to attend, a second giveaway will take place this Saturday, May 2, at 11 a.m.

More than 40 volunteers, including PTC staff members, their families, and PTC students, worked together to distribute 200 frozen turkeys. They also gave away protein bags with frozen chicken, pork, and beef, bags of nonperishable food items along with fresh fruit and vegetables.

In all, more than 250 families were served.

Boe Norwood, director of PTC’s St. Pete campus, said the food giveaways aim to help the community during these trying times.

“We know there are a lot of people out there that are struggling,” he stated.

Norwood said when he arrived on campus two and a half hours before the giveaway was to start, there were already people waiting. The day’s turnout was so great that they had to shut the gate at a certain point. He expects an even bigger crowd for this Saturday’s giveaway.

“Everything went well,” Norwood said. “More than expected!”

Arilee Still, PTC guidance counselor, made the morning a family outing. She brought her husband and daughter along to help with distributing the food.

“I might not have money, but I have time,” said Still. It’s just important to give back.”

The college is no stranger to providing food for those in need. Professional Culinary Arts instructor Chef Lennox Preudhomme noted that PTC prepares 1,000 meals for Pinellas Safe Harbor shelter every week.

“We’ve been doing this for quite a while,” Preudhomme said. “We do 500 on Mondays and 500 on Thursdays, so we do a dinner and a lunch.”

Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission provides the food to the culinary arts program, and the hands-on experience in preparing and cooking such a vast amount of food proves valuable to the students, Lennox said.

The mission provides food to marginal low-income families and homeless people, including children and seniors. Pinellas Safe Harbor is one of the places the mission delivers food to, as there are usually up to 500 people staying there. Others include the Police Athletic League and Tent City, a makeshift shelter-in-place option for the homeless, run by the Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Pete.

“We give meals to people,” said Lionel Cabral, executive director of Suncoast Haven. “In addition to that, the important thing that we do is give away about 100 boxes of groceries a day at the mission itself to impoverished families. We have over 35,000 impoverished families on our list.”

Any Pinellas County resident can come to the mission for a free box of food once a month at 1763 9th Ave. N.

Cabral noted that the mission gave away more than $9 million worth of food last year. Suncoast Haven either purchases the food or obtains it from various sources, including government agencies, local businesses and church charities. The mission runs strictly on donations and funds are getting low, Cabral said, adding that the mission has been around since 1988.

“We’re just funded by people giving us money,” he stated. “We don’t have any money anymore. We need a cash flow…but we definitely want to keep on doing what we’re doing.”

If you’d like to donate to Suncoast Haven, please call 727-545-8282 or visit HavenOfRest.com. This mission is also looking for grant writers to help secure much-needed funds to continue providing food for low-income residents.

Outside of the food giveaways, PTC was able to secure 1,000 protective masks from their Health Science department and distributed them to community hospitals. The Clearwater campus also donated the use of two die-cut machines to BayCare Health System to cut face shields for medical staff to use due to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

This Saturday, May 2, PTC, Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission, and Positive Impact Worldwide Ministries will team up for another giveaway on the St. Pete campus. Food will be distrusted on a first-come, first-served basis, and all recipients must remain in their vehicles.

The St. Pete campus is located at 901 34th St. S. Attendees are asked to enter at the main entrance on 11th Avenue South.

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