Suwannee Democrat


December 19, 2013

7 Gables Food Ministry-Free food for those who need it this Saturday

Mayo — Barbara Coulthurst-Rotunda, purchasing agent for 7 Gables Food Ministry in Mayo, recently shared information about the organization, which operates through the combined efforts of several churches in the county, as well as financial donations from churches, individuals and other organizations.

“We have been able to purchase and share groceries with more than 10,000 individuals since we first organized in 2011,” said Rotunda. “The first month we gave away groceries to 400 people. For the past six months, we have averaged giving away groceries to 900-1,100 people each month.”

7 Gables is associated with Second Harvest and Bread of the Mighty Food Bank programs, as well as the “Feeding America” program.

“The groceries cost us $.18 to $.35  cents per pound,” Rotunda said.

Then, of course, they must pay rent on the building from where the food is distributed, as well as utilities and pest control services. They now have freezers and refrigerators constantly running, which adds to the cost of electricity. Any food stored there must be kept in a cool, controlled environment, which means the building must be air conditioned, again adding on to the electricity bill. This past summer, the electric bill, Rotunda said, averaged about $500-$600 per month.

“We try to buy a minimum of 3-5,000 pounds of groceries each month, in order to have enough for every household to get at least $15-$20 worth of groceries,” said Rotunda.

An average bag of groceries for a single person contains at least five canned goods, packages of rice or pasta, cereal and snacks, and many times there will be extras, such as juice, coffee, eggs and meats.

All the bags are packed according to family size and also children’s bags with items kids like, such as ravioli, spaghettio’s, cookies, candy bars and puddings.

“You’d be amazed,” she said. “Every month we give out anywhere from 50-90 bags to households that have one person in them in this county.”

Rotunda said there are enough groceries in the bags to feed people for four days. She stressed these are not government commodities. They are good groceries that are donated from Publix, Winn Dixie, Food Lion, Walmart, Target and Save-A-Lot, as well as other establishments. The fresh produce and eggs might be donated by local farmers.

The government gives these donors a tax credit, which is part of the Feeding America program, she explained.

“Instead of throwing away cans that are dented, packages that are mashed or boxes that are bent, when they remove stuff from their shelf, they donate it to the food bank and we, in turn, buy it for our food distribution,” Rotunda explained.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, about 20 semi trucks loaded with groceries drop off their goods at the Gainesville food bank, Rotunda said.

“They never know what they’re going to get,” she said.

Rotunda said she usually makes the trip to Gainesville on Mondays or Tuesdays and buys as much food as she has money to buy with. She said she never knows what she will be coming back with.

Rotunda said she has established such a good rapport with the folks in Gainesville that they call her whenever they get a large shipment in that they need to unload quickly.One time they called her because they had lots of cream cheese just come in. She got it for a nickel a pound.

“Needless to say, last month everybody got cream cheese,” she said.

Another time, McDonald’s donated bulk sausage patties and Rotunda went down to pick some up. Everyone got eight sausage patties in the grocery bags that time. During the summer, she also got enough hotdogs and hamburgers to supply local Vacation Bible School’s with food to feed the children.

“The more we are given, the more we can give,” she said.

Rotunda depends on the help and support from volunteers to help prepare the individual grocery bags. Local 4-H boys and girls clubs, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, cheerleaders, the football team and other youth in the county have volunteered.

Free groceries are distributed on the third Saturday of each month at the 7 Gables distribution center at 857 E. Main St., in Mayo. Distribution begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 10 a.m. Any individual may register and receive free groceries from 7 Gables. There is no financial requirement. All that is required is giving basic demographic information, such as household size, nationality, number of senior adults, children or infants living in the home, ages and genders.

“These groceries are not just for needy people,” said Rotunda. “We are trying to give a helping hand to anyone who wants it. We feel that if we help folks save $15 or $20 on their grocery bill, perhaps they will, in turn, give a donation so that we can buy more food and help more people.”

For more information, please call 386-688-2380, 386-294-1020 or 386-294-3485 and a ministry volunteer will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation to 7 Gables, please send your check to PO Box 87, Mayo, Fla. 32066 or drop it off at Mayo Baptist Church. Volunteers are always welcome.

Current board members are Levon Windham, Joe Rotunda, Barbara Coulthurst-Rotunda, Bonnie Adams, Hilda Mullins, Judy Brock, Charles Hewett, Joy Padgett, Susie Hudson, Kay Templin, Ed Graveline, Annette Lawson, Marion Graveline and Martha Murray.


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