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HomeAt Home & BeyondMoms sharing their love with the community

Moms sharing their love with the community

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The idea of motherhood is more or less synonymous with the concept of giving. Moms give life, they give advice and they give of their love and time on a daily basis. In addition to giving endlessly to their children and families, moms also give back to their communities.

At nonprofit agencies across Hernando County, mom-volunteers are donating their time and skills to a number of worthy causes, while expanding their beloved families to include people in need.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and Thrift Store is a division of a “Catholic lay organization that leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.” This agency provides food, emergency assistance and scholarships to those in need, helping about 76,000 people locally in a single year and last year investing $450,000 in the Hernando County community towards the donation of food, rent, clothing, utilities and homeless aid.

And two of its most active thrift store volunteers are the mother/son team of Terry Biondo McKiernan and Raymond Biondo of Spring Hill.

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Two of the thrift store’s volunteers are the mother/son team of Terry Biondo McKiernan and Raymond Biondo of Spring Hill. This dedicated volunteer team is a beloved fixture at St. Vincent de Paul, with Mom and son each giving 25-30 hours of their time four days a week.
“We love the people that work here,” sharedTerry. “They’re so caring, so giving.”

Terry recently celebrated her fifth year anniversary as a St. Vincent de Paul volunteer. “I discovered St. Vincent de Paul after a friend of mine got food here that she needed to survive,” she said. “I see so many miracles performed here every day. I’ve seen people come in here desperate for housing, and they help them find shelter.”

Terry works both behind the counter and back in the sorting room at the thrift store. “Wherever I’m needed,” she said. Also, active in the sorting room at the store is Terry’s son Raymond, who has Cerebral Palsy.

Terry stated, “Doctors said he’d never talk or walk, and look at him now.” Raymond takes a great deal of pride in his work.

“They say I’m the best worker here,” Raymond said with a smile. “Miss Christi says I’m the best, and I love working with her and everyone here.”

Miss Christi is Christi Muise, store manager of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. “I love all my volunteers,” said Muise. “And it’s really something special when parents and kids work together. The kids really learn something.”

Terry and Raymond also love their work at St. Vincent de Paul. “We’re a family here,” she said.

Many more maternal volunteers can be found at People Helping People (PHP), and they’ll be out in full force this Mother’s Day when they will serve meals to people in need.

PHP is an interfaith community established to provide food, clothing and other basic necessities to needy individuals.
Through the PHP Sunday Blessings program, full gourmet dinners are served restaurant style to those who, in the words of program coordinator Mary Adams, “don’t get that many chances to visit restaurants.”

“Since 2017, people have gathered here for the camaraderie and good food,” said Adams. “The food is provided by local restaurants, churches and organizations, and Feeding Tampa Bay. We personally serve diners. Sometimes, we make the meals ourselves.”

Adams, a mother of three, celebrated Mother’s Day early with her kids last week, so she could spend the day itself with those who need her. She shared, “I learned to cook from my own mother, who kept a garden and when I celebrated Mother’s Day early with my daughter, she took me to the animal shelter where she herself volunteers.”

In the minds of many moms, the act of volunteering brings the experience of motherhood truly full circle. “I have four children and 12 grandchildren,” said Sunday Blessings Volunteer Pat Masters. “This work comes naturally to me.”

Masters serves Sunday Blessings meals to diners, also packaging to go meals and take home baked goods for clients. “Now that my kids are grown, this work fills an emptiness,” she said. “The people here are like family.”

Mary Ann Catalina, another Sunday Blessings volunteer, agrees. “Both as a mother and as a volunteer, it’s important to be self-sacrificing,” said this mother of two. “But volunteering here is never a sacrifice, even on Mother’s Day.”

“It’s very special.” Many a mom also benefits from Sunday Blessings feasts; including Connie Gordon, a devoted foster mother who has now officially adopted 11 children, ages 5-13.

“We pick up meals here every Sunday. The volunteers at People Helping People pack the meals and bring them out to my car,” she said. “It’s one day during the week that I don’t have to worry about food. I can’t thank them enough.”

Sunday Blessings volunteers Pat Masters and Mary Ann Catalina. Photo by G. Valentine.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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