Members and volunteers of Nativity Catholic’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Ministry: Pam Fattore, Debra Caputo, Mary Rossano and Rita Lichtenwalter.

Mary Rossano, who inspired many residents with her sandwich-making, passed away in September 2020. According to her friend, Debra Caputo, the need for sandwiches grew once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and thanks to Rossano’s lead, a FishHawk family made 200 additional sandwiches.

Rossano continued to make sandwiches up until a month before she passed and stayed connected with the church her whole life.

Original story printed March 2020.

Brandon resident Mary Rossano knows that age is only a number and helping others has no age limit. In March, Rossano will mark a milestone, her 100th birthday, and she remains active by volunteering and keeping busy focusing on family and friends and the difference she is making in the community.

Her friend and caretaker through Seniors Helping Seniors, Debra Caputo, recently posted a short video on Facebook of Rossano making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Nativity Catholic Church. Since then, the response and outpouring of gratitude from others has been remarkable.

“A few weeks ago, we had been talking about what her goals are for 2020,” said Caputo, “and Mary said that she wanted to be more involved in her church—Nativity Catholic.”

During the conversation, Rossano and Caputo realized that being part of Nativity’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Ministry was a perfect fit. Now, Rossano makes sandwiches from her home and a member of the church picks them up and takes them to one of the ten outreach food banks in Hillsborough County.

Nativity Church distributes more than 7,000 sandwiches a month and has donated 500,000 sandwiches over the last 14 years.

“I love helping my church and I love helping people who are hungry,” said Rossano, “and it gives me something different to do.”

Rossano’s goal is to make 120 sandwiches each month. Caputo will be buying three loaves of bread weekly to ensure that nothing is wasted and that the bread will be fresh each week. In order to help Rossano reach her goal, Caputo reached out to the community via Facebook for donations of peanut butter, squeeze bottles of grape jelly, ziplock baggies and white labels to adhere to the bags. The labels say things like, “You are loved” and “God is love.”

“This is a win, win, win for everyone,” said Caputo. “Mary is able to contribute to her church by volunteering, the church is reaching out to the community and the hungry are being fed.”

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.