SARASOTA, Fla.— November 6, 2014— When you visit the 100+ veterans who gather at All Faiths Food Bank’s twice-monthly veterans food pantry, most of them are happy to talk and will quickly share their gratitude for the opportunity to bring home some food. If you ask to hear their stories, many of them will point to one man and say, “Talk to him, he’s the real hero.” That man is Charles Buielski. Mr. Buielski was an Airborne Ranger in the 3rd Ranger Battalion and served in active combat around the world for eight years. Wounded in action, he is categorized as critically disabled by the Veterans Administration, has failing sight and hearing, and has developed MS. Not yet 50-years-old, he is soft-spoken, and moves slowly through the line for food, taking care with each step as he talks about what has brought him to All Faiths. “I grew up when young men were expected to serve in the military then come back and start a family,” he said. “That’s exactly what I did. I had a home, wife and three kids. But it’s not what happened when I was there, it’s what happened when I came home. That’s what I want to talk about.”
Charles Buielski’s health has steadily deteriorated over the years since his military days and he goes to at least eight doctor visits each month. He can no longer work, and trying to provide for his family is what brings him to the Food Bank. His 13-year-old daughter Abby is medically fragile with complications from epilepsy and autism, and some days she come with him to the pantry. Another frequent companion is his service dog. “I don’t know what I would do without this food for my kids,” he added. “It makes me cry to think about what has happened to me – not during combat – but the years since.” He receives disability assistance checks, but his rent is $1,100 per month which doesn’t leave him enough for food.
All Faiths Food Bank started its Veteran’s Appreciation Program almost two years ago at its Sarasota location. The food assistance program serves veterans of the United States Armed Forces and most of the volunteers who help at the distribution are veterans themselves. On the second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., veterans line up curbside at All Faiths Food Bank. Nonperishable food is provided and – depending on availability – fresh produce, meat and bread is given to each veteran that stops by. Representatives of other local veteran support agencies come to the distributions to offer assistance with employment, housing or other social services.
According to the 2011 US Census Bureau, there are more than 40,000 veterans living in Sarasota County. More than third of them live with a disability or below poverty level. All Faiths Food Bank is proud to provide nutritional support to any US Veteran in need, and subsidizes this program 100%. There is no cost to the US Department of Veterans Affairs for the food.
“This is an excellent program,” said Viet Nam veteran Roger Aitchinson. “It’s hard on those of us who are disabled. These people are angels.”
To receive food, veterans with a veteran ID card are welcome to visit All Faiths Food Bank, at 8171 Blaikie Court, Sarasota, on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. To make a food or fund donation call 941-379-6333 or visit www.allfaithsfoodbank.org.
Courtesy photos attached:
About All Faiths Food Bank All Faiths Food Bank, recently awarded a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, is a member of Feeding America and the hub of the hunger relief system in DeSoto and Sarasota Counties. Last year, All Faiths Food Bank distributed 7 million pounds of food equating to 5.8 million meals through 195 partner agencies and programs. Its mission is to feed those in need and educate the community about hunger and nutrition. For more information about nutrition, mobile pantries, school and other programs, please visit www.allfaithsfoodbank.org or call 941-379-6333