A food pantry that provides for the area's neediest residents now has a need of its own.
The Seeds of Hope food pantry, which previously operated out of Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Lithia, is seeking a new home.
The nonprofit food pantry was founded last year by FishHawk Ranch resident Leda Eaton as an offshoot of the community's annual FishHawk Turkey Trot 5K run, which takes place each Thanksgiving Day.
"I was looking for a way for my kids to earn meaningful services hours," said Eaton. "They were on the cross-country team at Newsome High School and I remembered turkey trots when I lived in West Virginia so I suggested we do a turkey trot here."
That was four years ago.
"The first year, I was expecting maybe 100 people. We had 450 and were completely overwhelmed," said Eaton. "Since then, it's grown by leaps and bounds. It's now the largest road race in the area."
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Last year's race attracted 2,000 runners and raised $20,000.
Eaton decided to use the proceeds from the race to start the food pantry, where students also can volunteer to earn community service hours.
"I really wanted students to understand and incorporate service in their lives, and there is no better venue for that than a food bank," she said. "Volunteers typically come to the food bank to fulfill their Bright Futures hours but end up earning more hours than necessary because they enjoy it."
A tutor at Pinecrest Elementary School, Eaton said she became aware of the needs of the migrant farmworker families in the area and wanted to help them.
"These migrant families have nothing when they come here. They leave all their belongings behind when they move from state to state, wherever they can get work picking vegetables and fruits," said Eaton. "And because we get no government subsidies at Seeds of Hope, we're able to serve these families without all of the government bureaucracy."
However, the food pantry has now outgrown the donated space at the Lutheran church and is seeking a larger facility.
"We grew quickly, from eight families to 60," Eaton said. "There really isn't room at the church for us and we need a designated area for the food pantry."
The charity purchases food at reduced prices from the Feeding America Tampa Bay warehouse.
With donations from What's In Store thrift shop in FishHawk Ranch, the pantry also is able to provide clothing for those in need.
Blessed Bottoms, another FishHawk Ranch charity, supplies the food pantry with diapers.
Randall Middle School student John Robert Davenport recently organized a used shoe drive that brought in more eight garbage bags filled with shoes.
“Giving people used shoes was eye opening for me," said Eaton. "You would have thought we were handing out money. People were so excited to get them."
Currently, Newsome High School students are hosting a schoolwide sweatshirt drive for the pantry.
However, without a home base, the pantry's future is in jeopardy.
"We are looking forward to finding a space and a partnership with a place that can embrace our mission: meaningful community service hours for students and food to people in need," said Eaton.
The food bank is looking at potential sites on Lithia-Pinecrest Road but is open to other ideas, said Eaton.
“We want something close to the FishHawk area," she said. "We want this to be a community food bank and for there to be a natural interaction between the community and the people in need.”