For some, food is scarce or unaffordable, so it’s about making connections.

Fred Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

An occasional series.

Carla Bristol is always on the move - sewing bags at night from donated T-shirts, sharing fresh produce to groups such as Daystar and checking on her 92-year-old neighbor. Lately, she’s also been funneling nonperishables to Eric Atwater, who is serving free meals at his restaurant, at the corner of 18th Ave. S and MLK St. in St. Petersburg.

“I felt comfortable with Atwater’s,” she said, “because I knew everything would be safe, and that’s where people in the community were already coming to - a place where people from four neighborhoods could walk to.”

Carla Bristol, left, waves goodbye to Jackie Hersey after Hersey picked up a head of collard greens during a giveaway organized by Bristol at Atwater's Soul Food Restaurant in St. Petersburg. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times ]

Bristol normally leads the St. Petersburg Urban Youth Farm on the campus of Pinellas Technical College.

She said she learned early, from her mother, to be charitable. In Guyana, where she grew up, her family had chickens and mango and avocado trees. They shared the bounty with neighbors.

Bristol moved to New York in 1980 and then to St. Petersburg in 1996. She raised two children here and grew to love the culture and community of the Southside. It reminded her of home.

Now, in the midst of this pandemic, she is connecting to a network of resources, helping however she can. So when a stranger reached out to tell her about a farm in Lakeland that was struggling to offload its produce, she found donations to purchase 350 heads of collard greens at a greatly reduced rate. Then she gathered a small team to bag everything and make them available at Atwater’s.

“So many people and organizations have stepped forward in this time of need,” she said. “If people know your spirit is good, they’re not opposed to welcoming you in and helping out.”

If you’d like to help, contact Carla Bristol at pcs.bristol@pcsb.org or 727-565-3930.

Do you know a Helper? Contact jpendygraft@tampabay.com.

Read other stories in this series:

Butcher John Riesebeck is embracing a family tradition

SPC professor creates 3D-printed face shields for medical workers

Retired teacher turned mask maker finds herself busier and busier

Isolation, frustration inspired action for Gulfport woman

• • •

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