Joe Mulé and Jane Grand

Manager Joe Mulé, left, of the Village of Polo Ridge, and Jane Grand, of the Village of Pine Hills, place food in a cart for a client while volunteering at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference.

The thud of a can against a table and the crinkle of a paper bag blend with a mixture of laughter, excited chatter and the hum of roadway traffic.

It’s a Tuesday morning, and volunteers at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference, a food pantry located at the edge of St. Timothy Catholic Church, 1351 Paige Place, are preparing for their day.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference is the only golf cart-accessible food pantry in The Villages area and serves more than 5,000 families in need.

As residents arrive at the pantry, they check in at the main office before driving to the side where volunteers help residents place food in their vehicles.

8:30 a.m.: Volunteers start to arrive at the pantry. Some have been here for a few minutes already and greet new arrivals. They say “hello” to each other, pour a cup of coffee and check plans

for the day.

8:48 a.m.: Volunteers discuss what food is going to other food pantries and start loading up a vehicle. “We have been extremely blessed this year,” said Joe Mulé, manager of the food pantry and a Village of Polo Ridge resident. “We pack a box to send to food pantries in the Ocala National Forest every Tuesday, just to help out. Today, we found that Beyond the Walls food pantry in Fruitland Park is a little low as well, so we are helping them, too.”

8:52 a.m.: Mulé works with another volunteer to pack homeless bags. The bags are clear plastic, resealable bags filled with canned meat with a pop top, juice boxes, crackers, toothbrushes and toothpaste. “We make up bags with food for those who are homeless,” Mulé said. “We want to help put a little food on their stomachs and feel like normal people.”

9:01 a.m.: Volunteer Pat Cini, of the Village of Silver Lake, checks dates of items on the shelf. “I always check the dates,” she said. “I want to make sure everything is

ready to go.”

9:07 a.m.: The first client shows up for food from the pantry.

9:09 a.m.: A donation comes in and volunteers begin sorting it. “We have been extremely blessed and have been able to share,” said Fred Harrop, a volunteer at the pantry and a Village of Belle Aire resident.

9:37 a.m.: Volunteers discuss an incoming truck that will replenish supplies soon. “We are getting 900 pounds of meat together in the truck,” said volunteer Ruth Kinstle, of the Village of Hemingway. “We were down to a freezer and a half.”

11 a.m.: The rest of the morning shift creeps along with only four total clients for the morning and the food truck’s arrival around 11 a.m. Volunteers unload and sort for the rest of their shifts.

Noon: Some volunteers leave, and Mulé grabs a cup of coffee and has a seat while reading the paper. “This is my quiet time,” he said. “It’s my break before the next wave, though today was slower than normal.”

12:31 p.m.: A new client shows up and sits on the pantry’s steps to enjoy the breeze. A few minutes later, he gets up and goes back to his truck.

1:05 p.m.: Mulé begins to load carts for clients. Hearing a concern about a resident having no food in the house after a recent stroke, the pantry’s manager gathers a few extra items and places them in the bag for a client.

1:20 p.m.: Jane Grand, of the Village of Pine Hills, takes a minute to herself after a difficult moment with a client. “This client just asked me if we had any toiletries,” she said. “It breaks my heart that she is embarrassed because no one should have to worry about what they smell like.”

2 p.m.: Volunteers begin sorting food for the next shift. “This is what we do when we are slow: prepare for the next shift,” Mulé said. “We couldn’t do it without the community.”

Senior writer Andrea Davis can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5374, or andrea.davis@thevillagesmedia.com.