It was a gorgeous day on March 7, as patrons streamed into the annual Fabulous Flea Market hosted by the GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, at the Old Lutz School.
Crowds were lined up on both sides of the school, on U.S. 41, waiting for the sale to start.
Elaine Pittman, affectionately known as “The Plant Lady,” said she sold more plants in a single day than on all but one other day during numerous years she’s sold plants at the market.
But, her plans to sell additional plants at the Spring Market, hosted by Citizens for the Old Lutz School, were dashed when the event was canceled because of concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
Like a switch had been flipped, cancellations started happening all over.
The Taste of North Tampa Bay, The Land O’ Lakes Music Festival, The Jelly Bean Fling and numerous other events have been called off.
In the words of Pat Serio, who sits on the board of directors for the GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club: “Everything has completely shut down.
“I’m co-editor of the newsletter, and we cancelled our newsletter because frankly we had nothing to report because all of our calendar events for the next month would have to be listed as TBD (to be determined).”
Besides erasing opportunities for family fun and giving vendors a chance to make money — the cancellations have ripple effects.
Proceeds from Pittman’s plant sales, for instance, help to support Christian Social Services. That organization operates a food pantry within its thrift store, at 5514 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
The GFWC Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club and scores of other civic groups rely on fundraising efforts to help others. The woman’s club supports roughly 100 local organizations and charitable causes, Serio said.
The Spring Market and Fall Market are the fundraisers held each year to support upkeep of the Old Lutz School, said Stephanie Ensor, a member of Citizens for the Old Lutz School Building.
Besides raising money, the events help acquaint the community with the local historic landmark where generations of Lutz residents went to school.
Thirty-eight vendors had signed for the market. Proceeds from the event were intended to help pay for needed repairs because of termite damage.
Doors need to be replaced, Ensor said.
“The windows are rotting,” she added. “They are so expensive, we can only replace a couple at a time.”
Food pantries are feeling the pinch, too.
Robin Granger, of Life Church in Wesley Chapel, operates a food pantry and a weekly community lunch.
“The problem is, the stores that we get donations from, they don’t have very much,” Granger said.
“Typically, we pick up food from Costco three days a week and we have not gotten hardly anything at all,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said, “I know that folks that are under-resourced are really struggling.
“We did an emergency box for a single mom a couple of days ago. She worked at one of the local restaurants as a server, but they cut her hours. When they cut her hours, she was trying to get back on food stamps, but that’s a process. Meantime, she doesn’t have enough food for her kids,” Granger said.
“We’re a little concerned about having enough food for all of the folks that we serve.
“During this whole week, we’ve had emergency boxes of food going out.”
Concerns about the economic and health crisis prompted by COVID-19 are stressing people out, Granger said.
“There tends to be a lot of folks who are a little bit scared.
“I lead the single moms group at the church. Being a single mom and not having income is really, really frightening,” Granger said.
Published April 1, 2020