For more than two decades, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) has been operating as the ‘Hands and Feet’ of Jesus by feeding and praying for those in need. The ministry is a component of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Riverview and dispenses food on Fridays from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. through a weekly pantry distribution.
The all-volunteer operation is currently managed by Bridget Wray, the president of the St. Stephen SVdP Conference. Wray has endured the enormous task of relocating the food pantry from the former facility on Bell Shoals Rd. to its new location on Boyette Rd. The pantry will close its doors on Friday, July 5 and will reopen at its new location on Friday, July 12.
“The new space will be better for us since we will be on the same property as our church,” explained Wray. “Being at the old property meant we weren’t very visible. Now people will once again see us and the work we do. This always helps with volunteers and donations. It also will be easier for those in need to find us since we will be near the church.”
The pantry helps first-time visitors by offering about 10 pounds of food per person. The items include frozen meats, fresh produce, bakery items and a variety of general groceries. If someone would like to continue receiving assistance, the SVdP pantry requires identification for each household member along with proof of residence such as a TECO bill.
In addition to receiving food, the ministry provides financial assistance for utilities and rent along with other resources through its thrift store located in Ruskin.
“Jesus told His disciples to take care of those in need both spiritually and physically,” explained Kathie Huff, the former SVdP president, who has spent more than a decade volunteering with the pantry. “We begin each meeting with a gospel reading, discussion and prayer. Before we begin interviewing our families, we gather in a circle, with those who choose to, and pray with them for their needs and intentions.”
The food pantry is in need of volunteers to help sort and replenish its shelves and pick up food donations from various bakeries and stores. Both monetary and nonperishable food donations are also appreciated.
For a complete list of opportunities on how you can support the ministry, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ststephencatholic.org and click ‘Ministries.’ St. Stephen is located at 10118 Saint Stephen Cir. in Riverview.