TAMPA, Fla. - Volunteering has been a part of Asianna Lotito’s life for as long as she can remember.
“I think it started when I was a kid,” Lotito explained. “My mom definitely, my brother and I, she always wanted us to go out and do things for the community. And then when I started my own business, I was able to manipulate my hours, so I always, about two years ago is when I started making time to give back.”
Lotito loved volunteering in schools but had to stop due to COVID-19. However, even a pandemic couldn’t stop her determination to lend a hand. She said she was searching online for different non-profits and discovered the Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger and its new Meals on Wheels program for children.
“Due to COVID, so many of our students that would traditionally be participating in a traditional in-person school breakfast and lunch are, due to underlying vulnerability and their concern are opting to learn remotely or online, so this just affords them a way if they can’t access the meal distribution sites that the school is setting up, this provides them a way to receive that meal at their home,” explained Caitlyn Peacock, executive director of the Tampa Bay Network to End Huger.
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“We’re really excited to be one of the first in the country to launch, and other folks from all over the state and nation are wondering how they can start a meals on wheels for kids, so we are just really excited and thankful to our community for their support,” Peacock said.
Support like the kind being offered by Lotito.
“With COVID, I wasn’t able to go into the schools and work with kids, so this was a way that I could do both,” Lotito said.
Volunteers pack boxes with donated food twice a week.
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“On Mondays and Wednesdays, we go out and physically deliver. We get on a big school bus, it’s usually me, the driver and another volunteer, and we just go up to the houses and give them their box of food every week and you get to know the families too, so it’s really nice,” Lotito said.
They see smiles of joy and appreciation and hear stories of loss and desperation.
“A family, their house burned down and they are living out of a storage unit, and she was just so grateful,” Lotito said. “She came up and was like I want to hug you, it really makes you see what’s going on in our community and how just a little bit of time in your day that you can give back to really make a difference. And I think right now we all have a little bit more time, so I think it’s important that we give back.
Volunteers like Lotito are truly making a difference for others while getting something for themselves at the same time.
“Every morning I wake up grateful that I’m able to do something like this and it has helped me overall be a more happy and positive person, so it’s been really great, I really love it.,” Lotito shared
Anyone interested in volunteering with Network to End Hunger can learn more and apply online at https://networktoendhunger.org/.
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