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St. Joseph food pantry serves 909 families during distribution

BRADENTON

There will be a Thanksgiving dinner after all for Tammy Dunkum and her extended family.

On Monday morning, she carried a full grocery bag in one hand and beckoned 2-year-old MacKenzie with the other outside St. Joseph Catholic Church’s food pantry. MacKenzie’s pregnant mom, Kristin Strapp, was with them.

The bag contained everything except a turkey, but a $5 gift certificate would go toward that.

“This helps a bunch,” said Dunkum, 49. “If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have anything.”

They weren’t alone Monday.

Nine-hundred-nine people came to the St. Joseph food pantry for its annual Thanksgiving distribution. Though it didn’t start until 9 a.m., hundreds were lined up by 7 a.m.

“I got here at 7:15 and when I saw all those people, I just hoped we had enough,” said volunteer Peggy Sitterly.

They came for bags of vegetables, fruit, cranberry and soup; boxes of dry soup, potato mix and stuffing; and a gift certificate.

“They’re our people, our neighborhood,” said Deacon Bob Nimon. “For whatever reason they need help. What are we here for, but to help them?”

If Monday’s showing is a barometer — 100 more than a year ago — the food pantry will see an anticipated 2,600 families by Wednesday.

“You see children with no shoes, adults on walkers and canes and in wheelchairs, you know how desperate these people are,” said volunteer Carol Delaney. “But you can see the gratefulness in their eyes.”

Dunkum is appreciative for several reasons.

Thanksgiving dinner will be shared by her son, who is Strapp’s fiance, and another friend, besides Dunkum and Strapp’s daughter.

They’re all staying in the same two-bedroom apartment.

“Everybody’s either laid off or not working or going to day labor, so we do what we can,” Dunkum said. “It’s day to day.”

Thanksgiving will be different.

“There’s going to be no thinking about problems, no worries, no nothing,” she said.

“It’s a day I don’t allow them to worry about tomorrow. I’m cooking and they’re going to eat.”

Soon there will be another mouth to feed, too.

Kristin Strapp is due any day.

“I told her, if she goes into labor while I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner, she’ll have to wait until dinner’s done,” Dunkum said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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