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Mike Fasano, Pasco leaders share holiday spirit at New Port Richey food giveaway

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

They shared a common thread. Over 600 families showed up at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey Friday morning so they could give their families something unattainable before: Christmas dinner.

Initiated by former state Rep., Sen. and current Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano 21 years ago, Friday’s annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway drew needy residents from throughout Pasco County.

Many arrived in barely operating cars, on rusty bicycles and tricycles and a few by public transportation. They drew from a well of woes as they told their stories to their destitute fellows  and the 75 or so volunteers orchestrating the event. Bankruptcy, illness, job loss, death and repossessed cars described their varied reasons to line up as early as Thursday evening. Their common bond, though, was a need to feed their families over the holidays.

Minister Tony Locacio of Hudson said he arrived 9 p.m. Thursday. That afforded him the first place in line when the giveaway started 12 hours later. Accompanied by his pal – a rescued border collie/Australian cattle dog, Katie – the 74-year-old had an 11 a.m. doctor’s appointment he could not miss. Plus, he needed the food desperately.

Plagued by his own health problems the past several years, Locacio moved in with Jane, his widowed sister-in-law, several months ago to help her recover from her own debilitating illnesses.

Locacio and Katie camped out in the back of Jane’s 2006 maroon Nissan Pathfinder, he in a sleeping bag and Katie draped in a blanket. They got about two hours’ sleep.

“It’s refreshing to know that there are humans in our world, our community – that really care,” Locacio said.

Using inmate labor and volunteers, Farm Share re-sorts and packages an abundance of surplus food and distributes it to people, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, churches and other organizations feeding Florida’s hungry, all free of charge.

Farms Share State Operations Manager Jinny Botwin, working late Friday from the Homestead center, said that in 2014, the organization fed 4 million households, each with at least three people. Some households, including many migrants and people from the islands including Haiti, have as many as 10 people per household.

Started in 1991 by Patricia Robbins with a spiral notebook and a pencil, the Homestead resident got the idea when she questioned the destination of a dump truck filled with squash. Upon hearing it was being discarded, Farm Share was born.

Fasano, then a freshman member of the House of Representatives, recognized the need in his community and connected the dots to take care of his constituents.

“It continues to grow exponentially each year,” Fasano said. “Last year we ran out of food again after feeding 500 families and had to turn people away. This year, we purchased additional food including 600 hams, 600 bags of potatoes, 600 cans of veggies and lots of candy canes.”

Relying on his office staff, volunteers from Bear Creek Nursing Rehabilitation Center, Dayspring Academy, Publix, Lowe’s, Land ‘O Lakes Moving, Pasco County Sheriff’s Department, Suncoast Epilepsy Community Volunteer Corp, Pasco County Professional Firefighters and myriad community volunteers, Fasano ran the operation like clockwork.

Cars were given tickets with numbers ranging from 1-600. Each car, bicycle or person on foot, approached each of five stations to pick up bags containing food, personal hygiene products, vitamins, Band-Aids and DVDs. With the exception of the hams, potatoes, corn and candy canes, all the other goods and services were donated.

Fasano said the Southgate Publix and its manager Don Phillips, gave him a great price on the food.

Lowe’s delivery manager Jim Marcinka supervised his forklift driver, Dave Dickson, as he unloaded 40,000 pounds of mangos, tomatoes, papayas, DVD’s, vitamins, cheesecakes and pumpkin pies.

Dayspring Academy, co-founded by state Sen. John Legg and his wife Suzanne in 2000, brought its student council — under the tutelage of history teacher Harold Windlan, to volunteer.

Sen. Legg and his wife and children, — 7-year-old Jack and 5-year-old Evangeline, arrived early to volunteer. John and Suzanne Legg, volunteers since 1997, said it’s a gratifying experience for their children and themselves and perpetuates a mantra of giving back

“We remind the children that we’re so blessed with where we live and what we have,” Suzanne said. “It’s important to give back and important for the kids to see others in need so they may share what we have and realize how lucky they are.”

Upon returning home, she questioned her children about their thoughts of the day.

“A lot of people in America sure are hungry,” Jack said.

Friday was Jack’s third time volunteering at the Farm Share event. It was the second for Evangaline.

Former Marine Corp veteran David Brenner said Friday was his 10th year volunteering for the event. Compromised by his own debilitating bones and hunched over, the 77-year-old man arrived early and helped distribute the 5-pound hams.

“This is what Christmas is all about,” Brenner said. “I wish more people would realize that. I think they would be happier.”

Minister Tony Locacio, 74, of Hudson, along with Katie, his 11-yea-old rescue Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog, arrived 9 p.m. Thursday evening to be the first in line at Friday's 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. Locacio has fallen on hard times with health issues in recent years and moved in with his widowed sister-in-law Caroline to help her with her dire health issues and to keep a roof over both of their heads.
Minister Tony Locacio, 74, of Hudson, along with Katie, his 11-year-old rescue border collie/Australian cattle dog mix, arrived early Friday morning to be the first in line at Friday’s 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. Locacio has fallen on hard times with health problems in recent years and moved in with his widowed sister-in-law to help her with her dire health issues and to keep a roof over both of their heads.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano thanks the volunteers at the 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano thanks the volunteers food giveaway in New Port Richey.
Sisters Cindy Powell, 58, and sixty-two-year old Janet Greil, R, rode their bikes for two hours to reach the 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. Their car was repossessed and Cindy lost her job at a pig farm. They struggle to afford basic necessities. After waiting in line with the 600 other families, the two loaded a wagon with a cooler and rode the seven miles back on their tricycles.
Sisters Cindy Powell, 58, left, and 62-year-old Janet Greil rode their bikes two hours to reach the food giveaway at Faith Baptist Church. Their car had been repossessed and Cindy lost her job at a pig farm. They said they struggle to afford basic necessities. After waiting in line with the 600 other families, the two loaded a wagon with a cooler and rode the seven miles return trip on their tricycles.
Sisters Cindy Powell, 58, and sixty-two-year old Janet Greil, R, rode their bikes for two hours to reach the 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. Their car was repossessed and Cindy lost her job at a pig farm. They struggle to afford basic necessities.
Sisters Cindy Powell, 58, and 62-year-old Janet Greil, right, await their turn at the  21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church.
Rep. Amanda Murphy (Dist. 36), and Pasco County Professional Firefighter, IAFF 4420, Joe Russo helped distribute donated vitamins to the 600 bags awaiting the needy.
State Rep. Amanda Murphy of H.D. 36, and Pasco County firefighter Joe Russo, IAFF 4420, help distribute donated vitamins to the 600 bags awaiting the needy.
Donna Pituch, business manager at Bear Creek Nursing Rehabilitation Center, L, joins Pasco County Tax Collector staff members Michelle Van Curen, C, and Sandy Golberg to distribute bread for the 600 families that showed up to receive Christmas dinner. Pituch, along with her facilities' staff members, contributed a sizable donation and collected food throughout the year for the 21 annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway.
Donna Pituch, business manager at Bear Creek Nursing Rehabilitation Center, left, joins Pasco County Tax Collector staff members Michelle Van Curen, center, and Sandy Golberg to sort bread destined for the Christmas dinner tables of families who showed up Friday. Pituch, along with her facility’s staff members, contributed a sizable donation and collected food throughout the year for the 21st annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway.
Senator John Legg, L, oversees his son Jack as the seven-year-old helps pile boxes of mangoes for more than 600 families at the 21st Annual Farm Share Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey on Friday.
State Sen. John Legg, left, oversees his son Jack as the 7-year-old piles boxes of mangoes going to more than 600 families at the 21st Annual Farm Share Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey on Friday.
Senator John Legg catches DVD's from his seven-year-old son Jack as wife Suzanne, in red, and daughter Evangeline, 5, help load bags for the 600-plus people who came for the 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey.
Sen. John Legg catches DVDs tossed by his son Jack as wife Suzanne, in red, and daughter Evangeline, 5, help load bags for the people who came to receive much-needed food from the Friday giveaway in New Port Richey.
Jack Legg, 7, son of Sen. John Legg and participating in his third Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey, piles mangoes at one of six stations that recipients pulled up to for ham, fruits, vegetables and personal hygiene products. Sen. John Legg and wife Suzanne have been participating in former Senator and Representative and current Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano's charity since 1997. Five-year old daughter Evangeline "VV", 5, is participating in her second.
Jack Legg, 7, son of Sen. John Legg, hefts a couple of boxes of mangoes at the food giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. He piled the tropical fruit at one of six stations where recipients pulled up for ham, fruit, vegetables and personal hygiene products. His father and mother have been participating in Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano’s charity since 1997.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, Rep. Amanda Murphy, Dist. 36 and Senator John Legg allowed a brief photo 90 seconds photo opportunity before the first vehicle pulled up to collect one of 600 hams, fruits, vegetables, desserts, vitamins and personal hygiene products at the 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, left, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, state Rep. Amanda Murphy, and state Sen. John Legg await the first vehicle to arrive for a load of ham, fruit, vegetables, dessert, vitamins and personal hygiene products.
Greg Giordano, a member of Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano's staff since Fasano's days in the House and Senate, leads a prayer with the volunteers before the first of 600 families arrives to the 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway Friday morning at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. Giordano's 15-year-old son, Joseph, R, is participating for the first time.
Greg Giordano, center, a member of Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano’s staff since Fasano’s days in the House and Senate, leads a prayer with the volunteers before the action starts at the food giveaway. His 15-year-old son Joseph, at right, took part in the charitable event for the first time.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano thanks the volunteers at Friday's 21st Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. More than 600 families showed up to receive enough groceries for a Christmas dinner.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano thanks the volunteers who helped get free food to those in need in New Port Richey. More than 600 families arrived to receive enough groceries for a Christmas dinner.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who started the annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway 21 years ago, arrived before 7 a.m. Friday with his office staff, to continue coordinating the event's logistics and volunteers.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano stays in touch with those involved in the charity event. He started the annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway 21 years ago. Fasano and members of his office staff arrived before 7 a.m. Friday to continue coordinating the event’s logistics and volunteers.

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