OLDSMAR – For years, Oldsmar Cares had been providing an array of goods and services for the area’s less fortunate families from a tiny old cottage on State Road 580.
Last month, the nonprofit organization officially unveiled its new 3,000-square-foot headquarters, a handsome facility that occupies the same general area of the old building yet might as well be light-years away when it comes to satisfying the needs of what started out as a food pantry in the back of a local church more than 20 years ago.
Today, Oldsmar Cares helps more than 4,000 families annually with everything from food and clothing to job placement assistance and home repairs, and the continued growth of its constituency and volunteer base made the move to a new building a necessity rather than a luxury.
“As a volunteer-based organization, we had a very cramped headquarters before,” Oldsmar Cares board member and marketing director Brenda Gaulin said as she conducted a tour of the new building March 31. “We have a lot more people coming through here now and we’ve never had an administration office, never had a meeting room, never had a place for on-site storage of food and supplies. So, we really needed a new facility.”
The new building, which reportedly cost roughly $500,000 and was primarily paid for by private donations, was a longtime dream of one of Oldsmar Cares’ original board members, David Wallace.
Wallace, an architect who has been with Oldsmar Cares since its second year, told the large crowd that gathered for the ribbon-cutting that the new headquarters wasn’t for him or his fellow board members, but for all the volunteers who have worked so hard and under heavy duress over the years in the old building.
“This is for the people who sacrificed their time and energy, and donated money, to give us the ability to do this,” he told the group, which included Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.
“We have over 300 volunteers, and it’s because of you we are standing here today,” Wallace said. “I’m so happy and proud to be a part of this. This started 22 months ago, and it came together absolutely perfectly and it’s about the people. It truly took a village to make this happen.”
Bilirakis, who said he always enjoys visiting Oldsmar, especially Veterans Memorial Park, praised the city and the Oldsmar Cares organization in a brief speech.
“This is a real special place, the city of Oldsmar. Just dare them to get something done and they’ll get it done,” Bilirakis said. “This community gets together and helps each other, and that’s what America is all about.”
Indeed, while the construction of the building was funded primarily by donations, including a large contribution by the Clearwater-based Russell and Ruth Anderson Charitable Foundation, city officials played a large part in facilitating the arrangement; last spring, the City Council agreed to a 40-year lease with Oldsmar Cares at a cost of $10 per year.
“I cannot believe we just signed our new lease as we’re about to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” Wallace said after the council’s vote on March 21, 2017. “It’s a dream come true for us.”
Nearly one year to the day later, that dream was a reality.
“It’s a good and bad thing that they outgrew their space, because that means there’s a lot more people down on their luck,” Bevis said as he mingled among the crowd while a live band played in the parking lot. “But it’s a necessary evil, and we’re fortunate to have a tremendous organization to help take care of them. The community leaders stepped forward to make this possible, and that’s what a community is all about.”
“It is so wonderful because we can now focus on other programs, including a tutoring program and a class that teaches senior citizens how to use cell phones, and we will be able to help more people this year,” Wallace said. “Oldsmar Cares is all about people wanting to make a difference, and now we will be able to make a difference in so many more lives.”