Bradenton community helping Stillpoint minster to poor

BRADENTON -- Cleoria Hatfield and her two children patiently waited in line in the parking lot behind the Stillpoint House of Prayer.

Monday mornings are usually busy at the mission on 14th Street West, but this was busier with Thanksgiving near.

The unemployed 24-year-old mom was one of many needing something for their holiday table.

“Anything I can get will mean everything,” Hatfield said. “Considering I just lost my job and I don’t get any kind of assistance, this will be the difference for my children and me.”

Nearby, Naomi Escobar echoed the sentiment.

“Food will be a big help,” said the 58-year-old grandmother.

Looking on from the doorway, Sister Noelle Hart wanted to help everyone in line, however she, her volunteers and supporters could.

“The demand for food and people not having money to make ends meet is significant,” the Franciscan nun said. “I’ve never seen so many poor in a given area in any of my 48 years in ministry. The need here in Bradenton is phenomenal. It really is.”

Yet, she added, so has the community’s response toward those in need whether it was in the form of clothing, food or funds.

Last week, for example, Stillpoint distributed $25 food gift cards to 200 families thanks to funds from donations from St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church on Longboat Key and St. Frances Cabrini Church of Parrish among others.

Then there was a mother of six, who faced eviction for $400 overdue rent and got help at Stillpoint.

“Thank God, somebody the day before had given us a check for $500,” Sister Noelle said. “It was like God is really taking care of the people who come here for help. It’s just awesome that when a need comes out, it is responded to by somebody and we are grateful for all our benefactors.”

Monday was no different.

Big plastic bins of bread donated by supermarkets were everywhere.

A couple brought in boxes of freshly picked fruit.

Volunteers stacked shelves with canned foods, much of it collected by one youngster who went house to house in his neighborhood.

“One boy who cared enough about the poor in this area,” Sister Noelle said. “The people who bless this place are awesome.”

The recipients of that generosity filed through Stillpoint, filling plastic bags with bread, rice, beans, potato mix and more.

“Our shelves are usually bare and this week it has been coming in by the truckload,” said volunteer Susan Belvo. “These are people who would have nothing to fill out their holiday table, things they could not afford to buy if not for the donations of other people.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.