For David Goodwin, perhaps his best reward as the director at DayStar Life Center has been seeing the contented smiles on people's faces as they tote bags of groceries out of the facility to their vehicles. It means a family that might otherwise have gone without will have a nutritious dinner waiting on the table.
For the past 30 years, that's been the primary mission of the nonprofit organization, which annually assists more than 4,170 families in Hernando County. And as needs have increased in recent years with the troubled economy, so has the determination of Goodwin and his volunteer staff.
"We've always been blessed by being in a community that sees to it that the call for help always gets answered," Goodwin said. "It's the generosity of good-hearted people that allows us to fulfill our mission to help others in need."
So, when the center celebrates the beginning of its fourth decade Saturday at its headquarters at 7120 Hope Hill Road, Goodwin hopes it will serve as a tribute to those who helped build the food ministry begun by St. Anthony Catholic Church, as well as those who keep it going strong.
Launched in 1983 with a $200 start-up grant from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, DayStar operated for 10 years in a small building attached to the church, on the State Road 50 bypass. In 1993, the facility moved to its present location, nearby on Hope Hill Road, which enabled the organization to expand its growing thrift shop operation.
Although much of its income is derived through thrift shop sales, DayStar also receives donations of food from local churches, hunger advocate groups and corporations, as well as financial assistance from private individuals. In addition to serving its own clients, the pantry supplies food for other outreach organizations, including the Salvation Army, Jericho Road Ministries, the Dawn Center, Love Thy Neighbor and Forest Oaks Lutheran Church.
Although DayStar's clients are required to register to receive food donations, Goodwin said the group tries to be understanding.
"We don't turn people away," he said. "If there is a need, we will do our best to fill it."
Clients are eligible for a one-month supply of food that includes frozen meat, butter, bread, pastries and nonperishable items. A typical four-person family receives about 37 pounds of food monthly. In addition, Goodwin said that, depending on finances, DayStar supplies food gift cards to as many as 350 families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Goodwin, who came on board with the organization as a volunteer in 2000, believes that the true strength of the DayStar organization lies in its staff of approximately 50 volunteers, who perform tasks ranging from filling orders in the food pantry and working in the thrift store to driving trucks to pick up donations.
"I consider the staff to be our lifeblood," Goodwin said. "We certainly wouldn't be able to do all the things we do without them."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.