Church Donates Free Lunch to Those in Need

Saint Sophia’s Synodal Catholic Community Vicar, Bill Yanson unites his small clergy every Saturday to donate 25 free lunches to Gulfport people. The rotating crew commonly stands on the corner of 49th Street and 17th Avenue South. “We have some regulars who wait at the spots that we meet,” Yanson said.

Since Saint Sophia’s Synodal Catholic Community joined Gulfport nearly two years ago, they haven’t had a permanent home, but that hasn’t stopped the church’s members from helping those in need. 

Since the spring of 2018, Saint Sophia’s has been donating 25 free lunches to anyone with open hands on Saturday mornings. 

“For us, it’s not only serving the community, but uniting the community,” said Vicar Bill Yanson. “It’s our belief that someone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.” 

The small clergy only holds about 12 regular members, and meets for worship every Sunday at the First United Methodist Church, located at 2728 53rd S. S. Church volunteers bear “free lunch” signs along with the bagged goods on the corner of 49th Street and 17th Avenue South. 

According to Yanson, if the 25 lunches don’t go right away, they make rounds to Childs Park and downtown St. Petersburg.

“We’re there, people know we’re there, and they actually look for us,” Yanson said.

The Saint Sophia’s Free Lunch Program may be run by the church, but it’s Gulfport businesses and individuals that fund the program every month. About a dozen different donors, all Gulfport affiliates, are sponsoring the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and packaged snacks that in-need people rely on. 

Yanson hopes to have an official building in Gulfport soon, and from there the church will extend its donation programs and continue to provide aide to the community. 

“We’d love to grow this, and eventually start giving out clothing too,” Yanson said.


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