Oldsmar Cares still changing lives after 20 years

Oldsmar Cares, the nonprofit organization that offers everything from food and clothing to legal, medical and job placement services, has been helping Oldsmar area residents for the past 20 years.

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The headquarters of Oldsmar Cares is located in the former home of the Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce on State Road 580.

The headquarters of Oldsmar Cares is in a small, nondescript house hiding in plain site on a busy stretch of State Road 580.

But don’t let the unassuming accommodations fool you—the local nonprofit has been doing big things from its modest location long before relocating to the old Chamber of Commerce building in 2010.

Founded by a pastor at the Methodist Church in 1996 as a way to provide food and clothing for the city’s less fortunate residents, Oldsmar Cares has grown into more than just a food pantry, offering everything from legal and medical advice to job placement and other vital services to anyone who asks for help.

“We try to help everybody who comes in,” David Wallace, a longtime Oldsmar Cares board member who serves as its lead fundraiser and de facto spokesperson, recently told Oldsmar Connect.

“All they have to do is ask for food, ask for clothes. They could pull up in a limo, or fall from the sky, and we won’t turn them away.”

Longtime Oldsmar Cares board member David Wallace speaks before the City Council on April 19, 2016.

Longtime Oldsmar Cares board member David Wallace speaks before the City Council on April 19, 2016.

Wallace said while they try to limit the area Oldsmar Cares serves to four zip codes, Oldsmar’s and the three that touch 34677, he added, “If you come here hungry, we’re going to give you food. We’re not in the business of turning people away.”

In addition to supplying food and clothing to anyone who asks, Oldsmar Cares also offers services that similar nonprofit organizations don’t, according to Wallace.

“We have a lawyer who does pro bono work, we have an employment center that’s gotten over 30 people jobs so far,” he explained. “We also give all Oldsmar children who can’t afford it free dental care until their 18th birthday.”

“Something else we do that other charities don’t, we give away two rolls of toilet paper to everybody who comes in,” he added, “because we understand it’s hard enough to ask for food, never mind toilet paper.”

Wallace said despite the recent uptick in the economy, Oldsmar Cares is still assisting thousands of people every year.

In fact, last year he estimates they helped close to 1,900 families.

“In the late 2000’s, the need increased dramatically during the recession,” he said.

“Today, we give an average of 35 pounds of food per person per month, and we purchase about $1,000 worth of food and products a month, if not more.”

This slide that was shown to the Oldsmar City Council demonstrates some of the free meal programs Oldsmar Cares is involved with.

This slide that was shown to the Oldsmar City Council demonstrates some of the free meal programs Oldsmar Cares is involved with.

That Oldsmar Cares is able to offer a wide variety of goods and services to so many people is a testament to the leadership of the organization, as well as the legion of volunteers who make up the heart of the organization.

“We are a very special charity in that we are 100 percent volunteer based,” Wallace said, noting that none of the organization’s nine board members holds the title of chairperson.

“It takes 30 people to run it, six people every night for the five nights we’re open. Plus we have children’s events, and we give out free meals on weekends.”

An example of the kind of support Oldsmar Cares receives from the community hangs on the wall.

An example of the support Oldsmar Cares receives from the community hangs on the wall at its headquarters.

Wallace also pointed out the organization couldn’t operate without the financial support it receives from the city, usually $10,000-$15,000 per year; fundraisers like its popular annual fine wine & food gala, which raised $70,000 last year; as well as donations of all sizes from local residents and business owners.

“We have people who bring in 1-2 cans of food per month, and we have people who drive up in SUV’s filled with food,” he said.

“We had one woman give us a very generous five-figure donation, and we have an email list of more than 600 people we can ask for help when needed.”

All of this support has led to a problem for Oldsmar Cares—it has outgrown its home once again.

Although they utilize a nearby storage facility to house their overflow stock, which amounts to thousands of pounds a month, Wallace said they have been looking for a new location.

“We are looking at building a new home with more room and a more functional layout,” he said. “We have a location in mind, and we’re looking for people to donate and help with this. So we’ll have to see how it goes.”

Oldsmar Cares has outgrown its home on SR 580, according to officials.

Oldsmar Cares has outgrown its small home on State Road 580, according to officials.

The need for a new space for Oldsmar Cares hasn’t been lost on city leaders, either.

“I think they do a tremendous job with the amount of services they provide, to the point where they’re busting out of their building,” Mayor Doug Bevis told Oldsmar Connect.

“The city fully supports their cause and their fight, because what they’re doing is pretty amazing.”

Until the new location is secured, Oldsmar Cares will continue to operate out of the quaint little house near the city’s soon-to-be booming downtown district.

And according to Wallace, a successful architect who’s never drawn a salary from the organization, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I have been a hard-nosed businessman my whole life, but this has made me a different person,” he said while looking out the window of a tiny office into the reception area, which is, typically, full on a Monday night.

“I hope this is my legacy, and a lot of other people’s legacies that have worked their hearts out here. And I hope that Oldsmar cares will be here long after we’re gone.”

“I always say, Oldsmar Cares can do anything, and we do it on a daily basis.”

For more information on Oldsmar Cares and the many services it provides, visit the organization’s website at oldsmarcares.org.

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  1. Donna Tecson-Smith 2 years ago

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