When one thinks of cleaning out their unused items and donating them to a good cause, they might not think of DayStar Life Center. Yet the organization, formed in 1983 with just $200 from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, has been assisting the poor and homeless of Hernando County for 30 years.
DayStar Director David Goodwin is awed by the fact that DayStar has been able to keep the doors open that long and still go unnoticed by some. On Saturday, DayStar will celebrate 30 years with an event to help bring the community together and share in the reward of providing a viable lifeline for many residents who struggled through difficult times.
Over the past 13 years, for seven of which he has held the position of director, Goodwin has seen many changes to what began as a small food pantry for the needy. Several buildings were added, which now contain thrift stores of different items.
There is a clothing store with racks of garments for men, women and children; a used furniture store; a gift novelty, toy and Christmas store; a book store, bursting with thousands of titles of hardcover and paperback books; and a housewares store.
All the proceeds from the thrift items are put back into the food pantry to continue providing meat, chicken, canned items, bread and peanut butter to those who could not afford to feed their families.
The dynamics of the family have changed, Goodwin said. Due to the economic climate, some people were forced to move in with family and friends.
"Not only have the number of families we see increased, but the size of the family has also grown. We have also seen an up-kick in the number of homeless, which we provide special provisions for those living in tents and in their cars," he said.
DayStar's mission, Goodwin said, is to "provide life's basic needs: food and resource information. We are an all-volunteer organization. Seventy percent of our funds go back to the community. In 2012, we will assist 4,142 families, which represent approximately 13,725 adults and children. We gave away 45 tons of food."
DayStar has never done an anniversary celebration before. This one, then, is promising to be a big deal. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., special sale prices will be honored, including buy one get two free on clothing and 20 percent discounts on books, housewares, electronics, furniture, small appliances, toys and Christmas items. All couches are 50 percent off.
Local Elvis impersonator, Ken E. Grube, is donating his time to provide live entertainment, and area organizations such as the Hernando County Health Department and Mid Florida Senior Services, will have booths set up to provide information and resources. Lunch from Texas Roadhouse will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"We are like the county's best-kept secret," said Goodwin.
Indeed, DayStar has been in the same location since 1983, tucked amid 3.5 secluded acres behind St. Anthony's Catholic Church. Located at 7120 Hope Hill Road, the property has been growing consistently, adding new buildings and opening new stores to fund their mission.
Everything is done through volunteer hours and donations, both monetary and in-kind donations that include food items through local businesses and food drives, grants and patron donations.
"We run it like a small business," said Goodwin, "because technically it is. We've got a lot of very talented people on board and a lot of very dedicated volunteers."
For more information about DayStar and how you can help with their mission, call them at (352) 799-5930.