NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla.-- After having to close its doors in April, the "Love A Lunch" program is back in business--and in a new location.
- "Love A Lunch" program gives out free lunch
- Closed doors in April, reopened in new location
- Group accepting food donations
When Jessica Beebe lost the lease for her cupcake shop, Sugardarlings in downtown, she wasn't just upset as a business owner.
"It was very hard," Bebe said. "Financially, my Main Street location never made us a ton of money, but we had such satisfaction in knowing that everyday, somebody could come and grab a lunch."
Beebe and her staff had started an effort they called "Love A Lunch". They put together bagged lunches including items like sandwiches, chips, snacks and bottled water that were free to anyone - no questions asked.
"It wasn't exclusively about the homeless people. It was about everyone in the area that really just needed a place to go, have a lunch, and a little bit of love and compassion," she said.
The Bank Street store closed its doors in April after its lease wasn't renewed. Last month, it was back in operation at the Community Congregational Church on Circle Boulevard, not far from the former Sugardarlings.
"It lifts me up," volunteer Gloria Hess said of her work with the program.
The church is one of the stops for the school district's Lunch Bus. Hess said parents of students who get lunch through that program are among the people who use "Love A Lunch". They also see people come over from the nearby Sims Park.
"A grandmother came over here, and she was almost in tears," Hess said. "Her son had died and she was baby-sitting her grandchildren, and she did not know where she was going to feed them lunch that particular day."
Hess said that woman has returned since, as have several of the original "Love A Lunch" patrons. There are also new people; Beebe said the program serves anywhere from eight to 15 people a day.
"It really has taken a hold of my heart and my staff's hearts and become something that we're very passionate about," Beebe said.
Anyone interested in donating food items, including chips, lunch meats, canned tuna and chicken, mayonnaise, ice, and water can drop them off at Community Congregational, located at 6533 Circle Boulevard.