ST. PETERSBURG — Jane Trocheck Walker tells the story of a family trying to subsist after their water and electricity had been turned off.
They caught fish for meals when their food stamps ran out and gathered sticks for cooking on a barbecue grill. They disposed of their human waste in plastic bags.
"This family is here in Pinellas County, living in that type of situation," Walker, executive director of the Daystar Life Center, said in the wake of recent disasters in the Philippines and the Midwest. "What people don't understand is that we have these disasters in our neighborhoods."
Today Daystar and other agencies that assist the poor will benefit from offerings collected at St. Petersburg's annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. Beginning at 4 p.m., it will be hosted by Congregation B'nai Israel.
The Rev. Janel Miller-Evans, president of the St. Petersburg Interfaith Association, said the service will include leaders from Muslim, Baha'i, Jewish and Christian faiths. Readings and prayers from each faith tradition will be part of the program, she said.
Besides Daystar, offerings of food and money collected during the service will benefit Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, Operation Attack and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.
"Many faiths care for the poor, and Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all that we have and to give back to the community by helping those who are hungry," said Miller-Evans, chaplain at the Westminster Palms Retirement Community.
Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B'nai Israel said the interfaith group has held the Thanksgiving service for more than 30 years.
Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, another longtime member of the association, said he would like to see more young people involved in the annual gathering.
"I am hoping that the facility will be filled to overflowing" today, he said.
Walker suggests that those who attend make donations of money, which can be used to help the needy with utilities and rent, and canned and dry goods such as peanut butter, tuna, fruit, vegetables, cereal, rice, pasta and dried beans.
Many residents continue to struggle, despite a thriving downtown and improving economy, Walker said.
"Mostly people have not caught up. The numbers have not gone down for any of our services. I keep being hopeful, but we still have a lot of people that are underemployed and we always have the folks that are on fixed income, the elderly the disabled," she said.
"We are still getting a lot of families just trying to stay in their homes in a safe way."
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.