Christina Danielewicz is a second-term student at Cooley’s Tampa Bay Campus. She proudly relates a wonderful volunteer experience she and other Cooley colleagues had while serving at the Portamento of Hope Café in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I had the opportunity to accompany a group of Cooley students to the Portamento of Hope Café in Brandon, Florida to assist in the reorganization of their soup kitchen, garden, and thrift store. As a former stay-at-home mom and an official “foodie,” I volunteered to direct my efforts towards the kitchen area. Upon arrival, about ten to fifteen of us were escorted into the kitchen area to assist in cleaning and rearranging the canned items. The task was simple: to sort out expired cans, clean the remaining ones as well as the shelving, and then restock them in alphabetical order according to expiration date. It wasn’t hard work, but very fulfilling in the sense that you are helping so many who rely on the Portamento for sustenance.
A couple of hours into this project, the Director, Lela Lilyquist (left, below), invited me to accompany her to make some runs to gather up food items from local businesses like 7-Eleven and GFS. Surprisingly, these businesses donate food items like sandwiches and salad on a regular basis. Incredibly, last year they collected almost 5,000 pounds of food donations from these donors! In talking to Lela, I learned that the Portamento serves three meals each day to about 600 homeless people. They are incredibly busy and are very grateful to receive the charitable gifts donated by these establishments. While we were at 7-Eleven and GFS, Lela was kind enough to introduce me to the store managers. We only stayed a few moments, but in that time I spoke with them briefly and was able to familiarize them with Cooley Law School a little bit. They seemed genuinely impressed by our presence in the community and our charitable spirit. It was refreshing to see the vendors in the community spring into action to respond to the needs of so many who rely on Portamento for their meals. I was astonished to learn that if Portamento wasn’t taking the donations for redistribution, the food items would simply just be thrown away. Imagine that…! Luckily, the community has Lela and her husband, Floyd, who are insightful enough to envision a much better use for those items.
I also had the opportunity to visit their Nature’s Health Food store which is conveniently located just a short distance away from the Portamento. There Lela’s husband, Floyd, was very busy organizing and preparing for the day’s patrons. I loved the store! Their shelves are stocked with an array of essential oils, teas, herbs, and spices and many other things associated with good health. While there, I was able to sample some of their homemade cinnamon sugar mullet chips. They were fantastic!
I can’t say enough about Lela’s energy level and the pride that radiates from her. I think it must come from the satisfaction of knowing that she is a crusader in the community fighting against hunger and homelessness in the best way she can. It’s so inspiring to see them succeeding in their efforts to reach out and provide for the homeless people of Hillsborough County. I must say that they do an incredible job, and it was truly my pleasure to serve the Portamento of Hope Café along side all of my Cooley colleagues. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share this experience in celebration of Dr. King’s memory. I think he would have been very proud of our mission and the manifestation of our good will efforts in recognition of his birthday.