A group of men and women gathered recently at Harvester United Methodist Church, off Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes, to lug bags and boxes of food from a room in the church to their SUVs and mini-vans in the church parking lot.
They made numerous trips carrying all sorts of items, including potato chips, granola bars, Goldfish, pasta, Little Bites, pudding cups, bottled water, Gatorade, and canned fruits and vegetables, among other things.
The adult volunteers chatted and laughed, as they worked.
There was so much stuff that they found themselves putting down seats to make more room in their vehicles.
Ultimately there were enough groceries to fill five cars.
They never expected such a bounty from the two-day food collection campaign conducted by Boy Scout Troop 707, of Land O’ Lakes.
“We were flabbergasted,” said Kay Svendgard, a mom volunteer with the troop.
The boys stood outside the Publix store at the Shoppes at New Tampa, off of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. They collected donations on a Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and a Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Others helped, including siblings of the scouts, their parents and some members of Cub Scout Pack 323, which feeds into Boy Scout Troop 707.
As shoppers walked into the store, the volunteers would hand them a Publix flyer and tell them they were collecting food for Christian Social Services, which has a food pantry in Land O’ Lakes, Svendgard said.
“They would point out some of the Buy One, Get One Free, and would ask them, if they would like to come out and give us food,” she added.
During the first shift alone, there was enough food donated to fill the back of a truck, Svendgard said.
“I was like ‘Holy Moly, that’s unbelievable.’,” she added. “Every shift, we had the same result. Not only food, but cash donations.”
Troop 707 does a variety of community service projects each year, including the most recent food drive.
“One of the things that the boys learn from scouting is that you need to give back to your community,” Svendgard said.
“The church itself does not have a food pantry,” she added, so it supports Christian Social Services, which does help the hungry.
Troop 707 — which by the way signifies LOL (Land O’ Lakes) flipped upside down — is made up of 36 boys.
The troop gets a lot of support from parents, Svendgard said. “We have a great group of adults that help make Troop 707 great,” she said.
Some of them showed up to help deliver the groceries to Christian Social Services.
Among them were Dan Backhus and Steve Koenig, who are both assistant scout masters.
The two men have a couple of other things in common, too. For one thing, both of them are Eagle Scouts. For another, their sons, who are now freshmen in high school, have been scouts together since first grade.
Doreen Perez, who also is active with the troop, and Mike Thors, a volunteer parent, were also on hand to help deliver the groceries.
“I did not expect this much,” Perez said, surveying the room inside the church that was piled with bags and bags of groceries.
She was pleased by the kindness of strangers.
“On the first shift, there was a woman who came in. She was so excited she went in and bought an entire cart full of vegetables,” Perez said.
Backhus, who works at that Publix, also was delighted by the community’s generosity.
“I was just super-impressed. It was so uplifting. Everybody — they were so nice,” Backhus said.
When the volunteers arrived with their cars full of food, Jacquie Petet, executive director of Christian Social Services, offered this response: “Holy Cow! We are blessed.”
The charitable organization has food left from its holiday donations, but knows that the supplies will dwindle.
“Come summer, we’ll be so grateful,” Petet said. “This is wonderful.”
Published February 14, 2018