Father Bill Yanson is known in the Gulfport community for his good deeds throughout the years. The St. Sofia Free Lunch program is just one of them.
Three years ago the program began as a way to serve the community, which is the primary goal of Yanson’s Saint Sofia Synodal Catholic Community Church.
“We’re governed by the great commandment; in brief terms that means love God with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself,” said Yanson. “We see those two as twin pillars holding up our faith. Which is to say, we spend as much time, money and effort trying to serve the community as we do within our own group.”
On May 1, Yanson announced an expansion to the church’s free lunch program on Facebook.
“St Sofia’s free lunch program continues during the pandemic – and has expanded! Thanks to the generosity of our friends and neighbors we’re now present in two locations – the most recent being Jax In and Out, where we’re supplying Jax Taylor with bag lunches and toiletries.”
The generosity has gone beyond Gulfport. Yanson seeks out people in need, and brings food and water to those who cannot travel.
“It’s our call, our vocation to give, not to vet the recipient,” said Yanson. “You never heard Jesus say, ‘Give freely, but check them out.’ In fact, much the opposite.”
Gulfport’s Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich, Councilmember Paul Ray, Jax Taylor of Jax In and Out, Christy Wiggins of Coastal Energy, Miki and Gini Fagan of Beach Bazaar, Michelle and Allan Bishop of BishopCo Holdings Inc, Stella’s and Gulfport residents Wolfgang Deininger, Veronica Champion and Margarete Tober are just a few of the instrumental supporters of the free lunch program.
Yanson has hopes of further expansion, but needs the continued support of the Gulfport community. The program is looking for additional donors and partnerships to grow and improve. Currently the program is funded through 2021, and Yanson is hoping to get funding through 2022. A hundred dollars supports the program for four weeks. Yanson is also looking for a van for drop-offs and to turn into a mobile supply house for items like clothing and hygiene supplies for those in need.
Anyone interested in donating or helping out can contact Yanson at 813-507-8977.