Hillsborough Public Schools Award Night. Pictured left to right: Karen Fuentes, assistant principal; Bill Cox, principal; and Kayla Forcucci, school social worker from Dover Elementary; Ana Sanchez and Noel Ritch from Holy Innocents'; Sharon Morris, superintendent from District Area 6; and Pete Soto from Holy Innocents’. 

On May 10, the Hillsborough County Public Schools recognized the men’s ministry of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church with the Family and Community Involvement Exemplary Program Award during its 2018 District Volunteer Awards ceremony.

The award acknowledges the men’s ministry for its community outreach efforts with Dover Elementary School. The relationship between the church and the elementary school was established in September 2014 after the school was selected for the kidsPACK Hillsborough Project.

KidsPACK is a nonprofit organization that exists to ensure that no child goes hungry after regular school hours. The organization is financially supported by community leaders, corporate sponsors and churches and relies heavily on its volunteers to pack and deliver food.

Under Title I funding, ninety-seven percent of the students at Dover Elementary receive free or reduced lunches. During the school year, the Holy Innocents’ team assembles every two weeks to pack meals through kidsPACK to combat hunger at home. These meal packs are distributed to Dover Elementary students who have been identified as food insecure.

What originated as a men’s ministry outreach has now emerged as an intergenerational outreach effort.
Volunteers include parishioners from age 6 to 83, homeschooled children and spouses.

The outreach also extends far beyond filling hungry tummies. Church volunteers have organized book drives for the school’s reading recognition programs. Furthermore, the church has cultivated relationships with other organizations to bless the school through this ministry. The Plant City Lions Club provides vouchers for glasses through its mobile vision program. A Kid’s Place donates books, and Portamento of Hope contributes meals and clothing during school breaks and in the summer.

Fr. Bryan O’Carroll, Holy Innocents’ Rector, commented on the church’s involvement in the program.

“It is my great privilege to be the pastor of Holy Innocents’ where God’s people are always ready and willing to care for the physical and spiritual needs of all God’s children, most especially the youngest of those seeking the basic human requirement of food for their body,” said Fr. O’Carroll.

For information on how you can help or on the church, visit hiepiscopal.org or call 689-3130. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church is located at 604 N. Valrico Rd. in Valrico.