Bradenton church helps out needy for traditional holiday meal

vmannix@bradenton.comNovember 20, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Thanksgiving will have extra meaning for Isreal Poole and Martha Green, his mom.

Ella May Davis, too.

And Simba Latu.

They were among the many people who were at St. Joseph Catholic Church's Food Pantry Monday, which was busier than usual with the traditional American holiday days away.

Poole, Green and Davis were there as clients, waiting in a long line that included the young and old, people with canes and walkers, mothers with infants, fathers with children, widows and widowers.

Latu, a Manatee High School sophomore, was there helping as a volunteer.

Though delayed by a balky computer used to check IDs, folks lingered outside patiently for a brown shopping bag filled with bread, canned fruit, frozen meat, stuffing and vegetables.

"Some have been waiting on line for two hours, but they were patient," said Dick Smalkoski, the Food Pantry director. "The spirit was good and I think Thanksgiving makes a difference."

Almost 600 people got a bag Monday and Ken Zola was one.

"It makes a huge difference when you're unem

ployed," said the 47-year-old laborer.

Isreal Poole didn't mind the wait.

The 42-year-old just got out of prison after a seven-year stretch for probation violation.

"I'll have my family, my mother, my brothers together and a family meal now that I'm back home," Poole said. "Being with family is the most important thing, family and health."

His mother was smiling in anticipation.

"All of us are going to have a nice dinner together," Martha Green said. "This is a wonderful blessing, a blessing from the Lord."

None felt more blessed than Ella May Davis.

For the 75-year-old, Thanksgiving will represent the first anniversary of her release from the hospital, a lengthy stay from which she wasn't expected to return.

"Doctors told my daughter I had 24 hours, but I'm here," she said. "Something to be thankful for? You better believe it, honey. I'm always thankful. God is so great to me."

Seeing folks like Davis, Poole, Green and the rest made an impression on Simba Latu, a strapping young volunteer who did a lot of heavy lifting Monday morning around the Food Pantry.

He's a defensive lineman for the Manatee Hurricanes, who are No. 1 nationally and pursuing a second straight state championship.

But seeing the long line of needy people puts things in perspective.

"I've never been in their position because my father works and puts food on the table," said Latu, 16. "These are people who want food, but don't have enough money and it makes me feel good to be here helping."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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