Jim Mecsko, a longtime volunteer with Our Lady’s Pantry, recently received a Hero of Service award from Seniors in Service (SIS), an organization whose mission is to provide solutions to community challenges by engaging seniors 55-plus.

“Jim has been a dedicated volunteer at Our Lady Pantry for more than seven years,” said pantry director Tom Bullaro. “He initially volunteered at the pantry helping to stock shelves and pack boxes and since then has become instrumental in pantry operations. After about a year, Jim had the bright idea to set up a computer program for registering clients. That program has received accolades from Feeding Tampa Bay.”

“I noticed Anita [Bullaro] shuffling multiple copies of paper as clients gave their names,” Mecsko said. “She told me it was no longer enough to give food to the hungry. We needed to keep all kinds of records for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and even more for Feeding Tampa Bay, our regional food bank. All of these agencies require assorted information to ensure the safety of food distributed to our clients. We also had to document how many persons were receiving this food.”

“I thought to myself, why can’t this information be computerized?” said Mecsko. With a background in electronics and computer programming, he had the skill set to make the changes he visualized. Mecsko served as the test engineer on the sonar section in the front of the Mark 48 torpedo for the U.S. Navy at Gould Oceans Systems. He also served as a gaming commissions officer writing inventory software for the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. It was the perfect background to bring Our Lady’s Pantry fully into the 21st century.

Using various computer tools, Mecsko can identify how many clients come to the pantry, whether these individuals live alone and if their households have children. He can also identify veterans among the clients.

“I used to spend hours every night going through new papers, taking out old, making copies for our two groups,” Anita explained. Now Mecsko is able to track it all through the computer program he designed.

“I like to help others, if I see a need,” Mecsko said. “After I retired, I was looking for a sense of purpose, which is why I came to the pantry.”

According to Robin Ingles, CEO of Seniors in Service, the Hero of Service award was given to Mecsko for his outstanding service and dedication to his community, and his commitment to Seniors in Service. “We thank you for the extraordinary service and accomplishments,” said Ingles.

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