Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Church food bank's clientele now includes those out of work

Well the world turns

and a hungry little boy with a runny nose

plays in the street as the cold wind blows

— Elvis Presley's In the Ghetto

I wish the Nativity Food Pantry and Food Bank would go out of business because it could find no more "hungry little boys."

I wish its warehouse was teeming with so many nonperishables and diapers and meat and potatoes that it would run out of space. I wish its leaders would scour the countryside and determine, "We have so much food, we can't give it away."

Sadly, my wish won't come true any time soon, if ever.

The truth is business is booming at the Brandon church's food pantry. Executive director Pat LeJeune typically grants three months' worth of food to a family. Back in the good old days, the family might return and the pantry would provide additional assistance.

No more. There simply are too many families for the pantry to stretch beyond its normal guidelines. After the three months, families are being referred to social service agencies.

"It is tougher because of the economy," LeJeune said. "It's also tougher because of the type of people we're serving."

More and more, it's not the poor calling or coming to the pantry's Dover location. It's proud members of the working class who no longer can find work. It's not just the downtrodden, it's the disabled. It's not just the anxious, it's the elderly.

"The stories you hear are much more intense," LeJeune said. "When people call, there's much more of a need."

Sometimes the needs go beyond the pantry's means. It distributes more than 3-million pounds of food through its own facility and 81 other ministries it supplies, and it does so on a budget of $90,000 — a figure that testifies to the pantry's efficiency.

Yet lately, folks have been asking for financial assistance with their electric bills, their water bills — services the pantry doesn't provide.

"I don't know what the answer is," LeJeune said.

Fortunately, donations have remained steady. Publix leads the way and the pantry also gets a considerable amount of commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The rest comes from dedicated Nativity parish members and others in the community. The more the pantry receives, the more it gives away.

So what can we do to help? Eat, drink and be merry.

Yep, it's that simple. Come to the "Taste of 2008" at the Nativity social hall on Sept. 20 and do all of those things for a mere pittance (tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door). Local restaurants will be on hand to supply tasty treats ranging from Indian cuisine to Mexican to pizza to desserts.

I'll be the emcee and entertainment will be provided by Peter Alden, an Elvis Presley tribute artist who does both a young Elvis and Las Vegas Elvis. Alden was such a huge hit last year, they brought him back.

I don't know if Alden will perform Elvis' version of In the Ghetto, but given that the pantry includes more than 11,000 children among its clients, it might be pretty appropriate.

People, don't you understand

the child needs a helping hand

or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day

Take a look at you and me,

are we too blind to see,

do we simply turn our heads

and look the other way

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at or 226-3406.

Church food bank's clientele now includes those out of work 09/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 11, 2008 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.