Neighbors helping neighbors

Apr 27, 2021
St. Augustine Parish in Casselberry joins forces with Catholic Charities of Central Florida for the first mobile food drop in Seminole County, April 24. (GLENDA MEEKINS) VIDEO COMING

CASSELBERRY | Neighbors helped neighbors at St. Augustine Parish as they collaborated with Catholic Charities of Central Florida (CCCF) for their first mobile food drop in Seminole County April 24. Approximately 250 families went home with fresh produce and other food to help fill their pantries.

Kelvin Berberena, a parishioner in diaconate formation, ignited the spark that led to the successful event after noticing an increase in homelessness in the area. “We see the need in our community. Especially during this COVID time, we see how families are struggling in so many ways.” He said the event gave the opportunity “to spread the love” and help others. “We are not only doing God’s work feeding the hungry, but also caring and loving our brothers and sisters.”

Father Tomás Hurtado, pastor of St. Augustine Parish said, “This is great because we can serve the community.” He said, “The doors of St. Augustine are open to serve the families in need.”

President of CCCF, Gary Tester, noted, this is the fifth county served through the coordinated efforts of parishes and CCCF. Polk, Orange, Osceola, and Brevard are the others. “We serve anywhere from 200-250 households. In Polk County they are a little smaller because the resources at that food bank are a little different.” He added, “This is part of our ongoing effort to provide safety net services to our parishes and communities in need.” He said the drops are designed to give households “food for three or four days.”

Mobile food drops began in 2018, but became “very intense during the pandemic.” A year ago, CCCF was doing food drops weekly. Because the pantries are now reopening, they are now monthly. “We are trying to be thoughtful in how we move around the diocese as we pinpoint areas of need.”

The group of 55 volunteers came from various parishes to help one another. Those waiting for food were also thinking of others. Mariela Rodriguez and her aunt, María Montenegro, drove in to help a family in Apopka who recently arrived in the United States from Honduras. That family has seven children between 2 months and 17 years old, plus four adults. Rodriguez explained, “They live in extreme poverty in a trailer.” She said the distribution gave her a chance “to do a work of charity”. With tears flowing she added, “They live in a very bad situation. It truly moves me and I am so grateful for these works of charity that are being done. There are people that need it more than I do.”

Elaine Pavone, another parishioner, has a friend on disability whose mother is in hospice. Pavone is helping them through the food distribution. The retired nurse and EMT said, “They are in dire straits. I wanted to help her out.” She said with so many people in need “it is imperative we help other people.”

Erlinda Maxey picked up food for a co-worker. “It meant so much to me,” to be able to help others through the parish, she explained. “The blessings God gives me, I have to share with others.”

For them, as for Juan Vega, CCCF’s food drop coordinator, the job is personal. There was an extended pause as Vega composed himself to share, “We need to allow ourselves to be instruments of our God. He does all the work. It is so special to be here and offer our time. Maybe we are having a bad day or have needs of our own. But to be here, say yes, and believe in the mission—God is always responsive and in charge of His works.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, April 27, 2021