​Food pantry begins its collection for the holiday season

Carrol Neal, the director of the Christian Food Pantry in Lady Lake, fills a cart with food items for a client on Nov. 3.

Carrol Neal is dedicated to making sure everyone who needs help receives it.

The Village of Mallory Square resident has been working toward this goal at Christian Food Pantry of Lady Lake for more than a decade.

The pantry, located at 103 High Ave., is seeking holiday food donations such as instant mashed potatoes, boxed desserts, gravy, stuffing and other festive meal items.

The food will be distributed to about 300 families the pantry helps monthly.

“Everyone should be able to have a hot meal on Thanksgiving,” Neal said. “We just want to make sure they are able to get the items they need, to help make that happen.”

Neal, the pantry’s director, has overseen operations for the last 10 years. When Neal isn’t working directly with the clients visiting the pantry, she is busy supervising daily tasks.

“I make sure there is food for our volunteers to stock and that none of it is expired,” she said. “I also accept the deliveries from surrounding businesses that donate to the pantry, like Publix and Target.”

When Neal first started volunteering, she did it because she wanted to give back. Now, she does it because she can’t ignore the constant need.

“This year is harder than usual,” she said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, so people are losing jobs or having hours cut. If they need an extra hand, that’s what we are here for.”

Neal has seen the number of clients grow throughout her years at Christian Food Pantry. As a result, she expanded the pantry’s services to also include pet food and supplies for its pet ministry.

“When funds get low, usually the first things that go are people’s pets,” she said. “They aren’t able to afford the food and supplies they used to. We decided to help with that as much as possible by also taking in donations of pet food and supplies to be given to these clients.”

Volunteer Mona Hyde, of the Village of Amelia, said she enjoys working with Neal.

“She has a great personality, and she does what she can to help others out,” she said. “I love working with her.”

Neal said she loves working with her staff and the clients who visit the pantry, too.

“We wouldn’t be here without the people who are helping us provide this service,” she said. “We work with clients not only in Lady Lake but also Weirsdale and Summerfield as well. We are thankful for all those who help us provide them with food.”

For more information about the pantry and its current needs, visit its website at christianfoodpantry.org, or call 352-259-0788.

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