Our Lady’s Pantry recently began working with Operation Veterans Connect.

Our Lady’s Pantry has been open for 22 years to help fight hunger among our neighbors, according to Tom Bullaro.

Bullaro, co-director of Our Lady’s Pantry along with his wife, Anita, explained that a few years ago, the pantry started working with Seniors in Service (SIS), a nonprofit group in Tampa. This group specializes in connecting people over age 55 with nonprofits in surrounding counties to make a difference and change lives through community service. Since then, SIS volunteers have been coming to the pantry every week.

Recently, Glarisol Traspalacios from SIS contacted Bullaro to tell him about Operation Veterans Connect (OVC), a program under the umbrella of SIS. Traspalacios is the program manager of OVC. The mission of this group, which includes volunteers over the age of 19, is to connect veterans, active militaries and their families to community resources. Through this connection, they can increase their knowledge about their benefits, have access to care and engage veterans in assisting their fellow veterans through volunteer service.

“We hope to identify more veterans in need who visit the pantry,” said Traspalocios.

Bullaro is thrilled to learn about OVC.

“Until now, we never had a special program dedicated to helping former military men and women among our clients,” he said. “Starting about a month ago, when clients come for food, Anita asks them if they are military. With the help of Jim Mecsko, the pantry’s computer specialist, we identify them as such in our computer, which digital information we can then share with OVC.”

OVC is helping the veterans to find housing and food.

“By the end of March, we had identified 84 veterans among our clients,” said Bullaro. “Many of these vets visited the pantry more than once during that month, receiving a total of 147 boxes or bags of food. In addition, AmeriCorps OVC member Scott Harvey also delivers nine bags of food to veterans off-site after the pantry closes each Saturday.”

To facilitate the process, representatives from Volunteer Florida, SIS AmeriCorps OVC members and Our Lady’s Pantry met on April 5 to share individual backgrounds along with their passion for helping others less fortunate than themselves.

To read more about this meeting, please visit www.ourladyspantry.com/our-ladys-pantry-working-closely-with-operation-veterans-connect-to-better-serve-our-vets/.

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