KISSIMMEE  |  With unemployment on the rise and increasing need due to the pandemic, Holy Redeemer Parish is joining with Catholic Charities of Central Florida (CCCF) to make a difference. The reinvigorated food pantry is poised to open in February.

A grant received through Osceola County enabled the purchase of new equipment, shelving, fridges, freezers and more. Catholic Charities staff will help with the buildout.

Ideally, it will be a mission market style pantry, where clients can stroll through and make their own selections. However, until the pandemic is over, pre-packed deliveries will continue due to “no safe way to accommodate shopping,” explained Gary Tester, director of CCCF.

Tester noted the pantry will become “part of a multi-ministry service center.” There will be a part-time case manager along with legal and health services.

Father Jorge Torres, pastor of Holy Redeemer, said the new pantry will expand its current reach. He noted the parish gets three to four calls for food per hour. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in November 2020, Osceola County led the state’s unemployment rate with 9.7%. Father Torres explained many parishioners and area residents work in the hospitality industry “which has been greatly affected” since the pandemic, he said – with even more lost jobs on Jan. 1, once the holiday demand ended.

Father Torres said the work of the market is a Corporal Work of Mercy to feed the hungry. As he watches families struggle on multiple fronts, he prays this pantry will bring some relief.

The market will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you are interested in volunteering, call Holy Redeemer Parish at 407-847-2500.