LAND O'LAKES — As the economy tanks, groups such as Christian Social Services are often helping twice as many people as they have during past holiday seasons.
"Money and nonperishable food is our biggest need," said Jacquie Petet, executive director of the ministry in Land O'Lakes.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Christmas a month away and the economy in dire straits, more people are going to area ministries seeking help.
In addition to providing food, clothing and supportive services year round, Christian Social Services purchases holiday baskets. The ministry uses the SHARE food program to get the best value.
This program provides about $60 worth of groceries for $30 and CSS is a host center all year.
Petet, who has been executive director for 16 years, has seen a rise in people using the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (food stamps) to purchase groceries, so she knows the economy is affecting more people than last year.
A vast majority of people who come into CSS are the same people who come in regularly.
"We have a lot of people who are referred," Petet said. "We trust all the people who come are in need."
The nonprofit, faith-based organization depends on churches and private donations for its services.
"We are blessed because we have a lot of churches supporting us," Petet said.
In 1986, a group of pastors and lay people from churches in Land O'Lakes and Lutz saw a serious need and decided to act. In 1999 the agency settled in its present location at 5514 Land O'Lakes Blvd.
"We are committed to every family who comes in here to provide a Thanksgiving and Christmas basket for them," Petet said.
So the ministry's biggest need right now is for the money to purchase food for the baskets.
Donations can be dropped off at the location on U.S. 41, 5514 Land O'Lakes Blvd., or mailed to Christian Social Services at P.O. Box 783, Land O'Lakes, FL 34639. The telephone number is (813) 995-0088.