For 51 years, St. Theresa Parish in Belleview has served the needs of its community through their soup kitchen/food pantry and social services ministries. On March 28, ground was broken on a new 3,765 square foot facility that will open by the end of September with absolutely no “down time” in service.
Both the soup kitchen and food pantry, account for most of the onsite community service. According to Henry Esparza, St. Theresa’s operations manager, the social services office handles 23 client requests per day for rental/utility assistance, minor medical needs, and helps with emergency situations like homelessness and domestic violence.
The soup kitchen/food pantry serves an average of 883 unique individuals a hot, nutritious meal and stocks empty cupboards in the homes of 267 others each week. Esparza noted the staff is “also tasked with daily logistics of picking up donated food from across the area, preparing menus, and rotating stock… so everything is kept at peak freshness. They also make sure each client gets enough food to take home.
“The need for services has grown exponentially over the years as news of St. Theresa’s dedication and caring for the community has spread,” said Esparza. In addition to the new building, there will be a 1,750 square foot covered seating area so clients may relax and enjoy their meals. Currently all programs operate out of the old 1,400 square foot rectory, so the new facility will be a delight on both sides of the serving line.
A recent client shared, “My husband and I found ourselves suddenly homeless with our 11-year-old autistic son. The upheaval to our family was immense and we were feeling very alone. Social Services not only gave us a roof over our heads, they provided critical necessities for job searches and promoted long-term solutions. Our son was also gifted with clothing so he could return to school with confidence and we were all blessed with full bellies each day at the soup kitchen. My family truly believes St. Theresa’s was showing God’s love at its finest.”
The bulk of the project’s financial support comes from generous parishioners who frequently rally together when anyone in the community needs assistance. The group feeling is they can accomplish anything with teamwork.
Pastor David Vivero explained, “Like the Acts of the Apostles Acts 4:32, ‘the community of believers with great power bore witness to the resurrected Christ, with one heart and mind, sharing their goods and possessions, placing them at feet of the Apostles, and distributing them according to their needs.’”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – April 17, 2018