Army family gives back to their community with The Bautista Project

According to Feeding Tampa Bay, nearly one million people struggle with food insecurity in our area and that number includes thousands of veterans. 

And, the Bautista's are an Army family whose service to others knows no bounds. On the fourth Wednesday of every month, there’s a guarantee a line of cars will be outside Keeney Chapel United Methodist Church in East Tampa.

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On the fourth Wednesday of every month, there’s a guarantee a line of cars will be outside Keeney Chapel United Methodist Church in East Tampa.

The cars are there because of Marla and Ulisses Bautista, the founders of the nonprofit Bautista Project. Their Service-to-Service food pantry partners with Feeding Tampa Bay. 

File: Service to Service Food Pantry

The Service-to-Service food pantry partners with Feeding Tampa Bay. Volunteers fill people’s trunks with all the essentials. 

Volunteers help them fill people’s trunks with all the essentials. They give out boxes full of bread, non-perishables, water, potatoes and so much more. 

 "Community is really important to us. Not only does my husband serve our country, but we serve our communities as well. We've done it everywhere we’ve gone. We’ve done it in Germany, and in Hawaii, and Colorado and New York," Marla Bautista said.

File: Bautista Project

Their service-to-service food pantry helps those in need.

Ulisses Bautista has served our country for 15 years. He's currently a Geospatial Engineer at Centcom at MacDill. 

The couple founded The Bautista Project in 2016 and their family, including their three children, have been serving the community ever since. 

"I experienced homelessness as a young adult, and I promised myself that if I ever overcame homelessness that I would give back to people in need," Marla explained.

File: The Bautista family

The Bautista family serves the country and their local community.

At their service-to-service food pantry, the Bautista’s are surrounded by veteran and active-duty volunteers who feel compelled to serve other veterans in the community.

"We do it because we like doing it, it’s in my heart," Maggie Mathews, Marine Corp Veteran said.

Michael West is an Air Force Veteran. He volunteers with The Bautista Project.

"These are wonderful people, everybody here. Most everybody here is a vet, and we have a certain language and dealing with each other," West shared.

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The monthly food drive is just one of many projects the Bautista’s take on. They deliver snack packs to the homeless and their VetPoint100 project offers special programs to guide veterans out of homelessness. 

They also have the Belonging Blanket project. 

"That project came about after tripping over a bin of my husband’s uniforms in my garage and I said what are we going to do with these uniforms? My husband said we take them back and they destroy them. I thought we could use them for something, there are so many people in need, and so we decided to start making blankets and pillows," Marla explained.

File: Belonging Blanket project

The Belonging Blanket project is another effort to help their community.

The Bautista’s learned how to sew watching YouTube videos and now dedicated volunteers help create the works of art for children in foster care or group homes.

Their work has been recognized by the Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It shows us all that service to country extends to the community you call home. 

The next service-to-service food pantry will take place Wednesday, May 24, at Keeney Chapel United Methodist Church at 7736 Destin Drive in from 5-6:30 p.m.

For more information on The Bautista Project click here.