In a remarkable display of compassion and interfaith cooperation, a local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has extended a helping hand to a neighboring church, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Stephen Catholic Church, with a generous donation of $15,000 in cash and an additional $15,000 worth of food to bolster its food pantry efforts.
The charitable act unfolded as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came together last week to deliver the gift. This gift is expected to augment the capacity of the food pantry, which serves as a lifeline for many local residents experiencing food insecurity.
Marc Bernhisel, Brandon Florida Stake communications director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explained the motivation behind the generous initiative.
“It’s important to find commonality so we can support one another as others respond to the needs of our neighbors,” he said.
His wife, Julee Bernhisel, assistant communications director, agrees.
“The more we reach out to other faiths, it brings the faith community together,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful thing.”
After all, the Lord Jesus Christ has directed everyone to “love thy neighbor,” (Mark 12:31).
Denise Essex, president of the St. Stephen Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, expressed profound gratitude for the substantial contribution, which is expected to make a significant difference in the lives of local families grappling with food insecurity.
“It was extremely generous and it’s going to make a huge difference for the pantry as we help those in the community in need,” Essex said. “We’re all volunteers, so all the money that comes in goes right back out to the community.”
Essex said the number of families the pantry serves has increased in recent months amid the ongoing economic challenges of inflation. In March, the pantry served 190 families. In June, the number increased to 209 families.
“In general, everyone is feeling the impact of the increase in expenses, whether at the grocery store to the higher electric bills and rent,” she said.
The pantry, located at St. Stephen Catholic School at 10118 St. Stephen Cir. in Riverview, is open for food distribution every Friday from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Please bring a photo ID. In addition to food assistance, the society provides other aid, which may take the form of consultation, financial support or in-kind service.
For more information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visit https://ststephencatholic.org/society-of-st-vincent-de-paul. For more information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visit www.churchofjesuschrist.org.