BROOKSVILLE — "Just a mom helping families in need."
Those are the words on Tina Tauriello's business card. But those who have worked alongside Tauriello as she ministers to hurting people say the "just" doesn't do her justice.
"My first interaction with Tina was when I got a referral for a family that had a house fire and became homeless," said Shanika Figueroa, student social worker for the Hernando County school system. "She took that head-on and did some amazing things, going out into the community to find them an alternative place to stay and getting them clothes. She says she's just a mom. But to all of us, she's much more. She has taken on so much, and she does it so well and so gracefully."
Tauriello, 48, has also worked with John Stramiello of Behind the Stones Ministries.
"Tina is an involved Christian mom who has stepped up to the plate big time," Stramiello said, praising Tauriello's work on a recent ministry project. "She's a powerhouse. You ask her to do something, and the next day it's done."
Today, Tauriello will be one of several volunteers handing out supplies at an annual school backpack giveaway in Spring Hill. On Friday, she worked at a school-sponsored clothing swap. On Monday, she helped with a back-to-school appreciation breakfast for teachers. When school begins next week, she will volunteer her time at Pine Grove Elementary and West Hernando Middle, where her daughters attend school.
Helping schoolchildren with needs is a top priority for Tauriello. She says she was first inspired by God to do so last spring when she saw homeless families helping their children get dressed at local schools with clothes and toiletries stored in their car trunks. Seeing and having an abundance of clothing left from a yard sale — held to benefit neighbors whose home had burned — led her to contact Figueroa.
Figueroa had been serving needy students with clothing that she kept in a portable building at Fox Chapel Middle School in Spring Hill. With more children being identified as homeless last school year, the needs increased, from 497 to 645 students. Tauriello offered to use her family's barn as a Kid's Closet and started collecting more clothing, shoes and basic necessities.
This year, the number of homeless children in Hernando is expected to rise even higher.
"If we can all just do a little bit to help each other, it's like a foundation," Tauriello said. "God says, 'This is my will that you help this person because right now they are on their knees praying to me, and I would like you to be that angel for them to lift them up.' "
She will operate both storage facilities. She will also put together care packages to give to families in need and will continue to work with community organizations and ministries that help people in whatever capacity she is needed.
"Anything I need for my ministry, she's there," Stramiello said. "She works with us and the Boys & Girls Club and Devereux Kids. Whenever we meet, she's there. She does it all for the glory of God, and it's from the heart."
Tauriello mentions the names of several individuals and businesses when she talks about her volunteer work.
"People like John and Shanika, the Red Hat ladies, Joe and Valerie Cuce (at the Jersey Cafe), Rob Miller, Tim Reed (at Paul and Jerry's Self Storage), Nancy Hurst (at Pine Grove Elementary School) and Tula Kelleher (at West Hernando Middle School). They have been instrumental in helping me reach as many as I have been able to so far," she said.
Noreen St. Jean has been instrumental in using the Kid's Closet as a resource, Tauriello said.
"We have served many families due to her efforts of bringing resources in the community together," she said. "Her project is called the Spring Hill Neighborhood Project, paid for by Kids Central and facilitated by Devereux Kids, to connect people together and empower them to help one another."
Tauriello's husband, Chris, an information technology director for a Tampa computer company, helps by delivering clothing, refurbishing computers to donate to kids and schools, working at yard sales, making fliers and helping with household responsibilities to free up more of her time.
Tauriello's mother, Nancy Beall, sends bags full of clothing for the Kid's Closet purchased at yard sales near her home in Hanover, Pa.
With the start of school, Tauriello said, organizations and individuals can help by donating items to the Kid's Closet.
"I have a pretty decent supply of clothing," she said. "But I need toiletries like soaps, razors and deodorant. We go through things fairly quickly. It's a difficult time for people."
Businesses can help by providing meals or making monetary donations, Tauriello said.
"They can contact me to be a resource by either offering us a discounted rate with things like rent or groceries, or they can adopt a family and feed them once a week," she said. "Many businesses cannot donate $500 or hold big rallies, but they can do a meal at a time."
Most of the time, Tauriello never meets the families she helps.
"I know that this little part will help them to keep their heads above water and be successful," she said. "That is my mission and passion."