ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) is the domestic violence resource agency for south Pinellas County. For the second straight year, the agency is holding its Soup-er Bowl Food Drive, collecting non-perishable food and monetary donations to stock the pantry at its domestic violence shelter.
The shelter usually has more than 100 people - mostly women and children - staying there, eating three meals a day and snacks. The agency says this results in an enormous grocery budget. The food drive helps offset that cost.
“We collected about 3,000 pounds of food last year,” says John Biesinger of CASA. “This year, we’re hoping to double that. People have no idea how much that would help our clients! It will help them in more ways than just feeding them. We can use the money we’re saving on our grocery bill to supplement other services we provide.”
CASA operates a 24-hour crisis hotline, offers community support groups, and provides courtroom advocates for domestic violence victims, among other things.
H&R Block is one of the companies collecting non-perishable food for CASA. You’ll find a donation box at each of the 24 H&R Block offices in Pinellas County. Cesar Apolo is the district general manager. He felt compelled to join the food drive after taking a tour of CASA’s shelter.
“It is really amazing what goes on there,” says Apolo. “You see all of these people. Because of domestic violence, they are homeless. Women and children who have no food to eat, no place to go.”
He decided he would provide them with more than just nourishment. Apolo and some of his tax professionals will soon visit the shelter to offer free tax advice and hold financial literacy classes, teaching people how to save money, how to budget, and how to balance a checkbook. For those who qualify for form 1040EZ, they will also file their taxes free of charge.
“We can change people’s lives with the advice that we provide them,” says Apolo. “We want to help them make sure they know what to do when they get out of that shelter and get a job -- how to manage their finances.”
The food drive runs through February 28. Many local businesses have set up collection boxes. To find a donation site near you, visit https://www.casa-stpete.org/events,soup-er-bowl-2017.