Most of us don’t know what it’s like to skip a meal, involuntarily, or look in the refrigerator and wonder what you’re going to fix for dinner that evening. Because of the coronavirus, for a growing number of people in the area, this has become a reality. Two organizations are helping to make sure that individuals and families don’t have to face this dilemma.
Fostering Hope is a 501(c) organization founded by Gloria West-Lawson in 2006. Its mission is to help foster families. It also strives to make sure that siblings who go into foster care stay together. The organization runs two Kidz Closets where foster, adoptive and other substitute caregivers can pick up items like clothing, toys, cribs, high chairs and car seats free of charge.
Now, Fostering Hope is taking on a new role – providing groceries for families that are struggling because of COVID-19. Many of the foster parents are providing a home to more than one child and have children of their own, as well. Some are even single people fostering children. Others are grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Fostering Hope received a $4,100 grant from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay to run this program. Florida Food Force also provides them with food that would otherwise be thrown out. Approximately thirty-three families representing 210 individuals are coming to their center on Spring Hill Drive every Thursday to pick up items such as milk, eggs, canned goods, bread, peanut butter, diapers and baby formula.
Nicole Gibson is married with two children of her own and one foster child. Her children are 3½ and 1½ years of age and she is fostering a 3 month-old baby.
“I come to the food bank because it’s hard to find things in the stores right now and it’s hard to get out with three children. I’m not going to take them in the stores,” she stated.
For Redeemers Promise Ministries, providing food for the hungry is not a new mission. Pastor Perry Littlejohn and his group of dedicated volunteers have been operating a food bank since 2016.
"The face of hunger is not what most people think it is. They think it's someone that's homeless and living in the woods and has no means. This population only makes up a small portion of the people that we help," Pastor Littlejohn remarked in an interview last year.
Now the face of hunger looks like you and me. Some are middle class people put out of work because of the shutdown who never imagined that they would be in this situation. Some have been coming to the food pantry since it opened.
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, they were feeding approximately 1,200 people per month. Now twenty-five volunteers are distributing food to more than 1000 individuals every Saturday.
Donald Tarr has been volunteering for almost three years. He started volunteering because he was coming to the food pantry, himself.
“I liked them. They treated people good. So I started volunteering,” he stated.
Rosemari Durant, a member of the church that sponsors this ministry has been a volunteer for about a year.
“I loved the family feeling here. That’s why I wanted to volunteer,” she remarked.
Although the food distribution doesn’t start until 8:00 a.m., cars started lining up in the parking lot before 7 o’clock last Saturday and by the time volunteers started putting the food into people’s cars the queue stretched all the way along the property in front of the center on County Line Road.
A gentleman and his wife were first in line. Not only were there the two of them, they also had their three granddaughters staying with them. The girls had come from New York for a visit and then returned home. Later they came back to stay with their grandparents because of the severity of conditions in New York.
Nineteen year-old Francisco who was there with his grandparents stated, “We’ve been coming here for a while. We are five in our household, including my brother and my cousin. It’s wonderful what the church is doing because they’re helping the most needy.”
A young Vietnamese man, probably in his thirties, was there because he was out of work. He had been a nail tech in a nail salon before the virus. He had been waiting in line for an hour and probably had another fifteen minutes at least to wait.
“This is my first time coming. In my house there is my wife, child and cousin,” he commented.
For more information on Fostering Hope call 727-688-5328 or visit
To find out more about Redeemers Promise Ministries call (352) 942-9009 or log onto www.redeemerspromiseministries.com