NAVARRE — When Kate Mayor started Food for Vets in March, she knew there was a need to provide food, health and beauty products to struggling veterans.
She just didn't know how big that need would be.
On June 1, the nonprofit moved to its new location at 1772 Sea Lark Lane.
"We outgrew the first location almost immediately," said Food for Vets founder Kate Mayor. "I have 62 clients now — 178 total people being served."
Mayor got the idea to start a food pantry for veterans and low-income military families from a friend who started a similar organization in Arkansas. As a disabled Air Force veteran and the wife of a Navy veteran, Mayor knows firsthand the struggles military families can face outside of their service.
"We have people coming from Pensacola and Shalimar ... someone even drove from the Tallahassee area," Mayor said. "A lot of people don't really grasp that military families could be in need. When my husband was an E-6 at Whiting Field, he worked all day and delivered pizzas at night. Before I met my husband, I was a single mom and did everything I could to put food on the table."
The Navarre community has been pretty welcoming to the new organization. For an organization that is run solely on donations, it's important to have community engagement, Mayor said. Publix regularly sends baked goods and the St. Sylvester Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society recently donated a brand-new refrigerator. Pea Ridge Elementary student Jaydlyn Minturn, 11, recently made the news when she collected 400-pounds of food for the pantry in May. She continues to stop by the pantry to donate food, toys and has even helped paint in the new location.
"She's a big inspiration and my No. 1 volunteer," said Mayor.
Vets, active duty service members, reservists and military spouses can set up an appointment to meet with Mayor and become a client. They just have to bring some form of proof they they are in the military or a spouse. Once they become clients, they can stop in during open pantry hours every third Friday and Saturday of the month. According to the organization's website there's "no games, no politics, no religion, no pressure, no sales, no bull."
The average family walks away with about 100 to 200 pounds of food with each pantry visit, Mayor said.
"There was one gentleman who came to us and gave me a hug with tears in his eyes," she added. "Pantry days are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. This is my way of giving back."
For more information on how you can support the nonprofit, visit foodforvets.org.