Steve Cruz smiled as he held up a bag full of food.
“This is a bean mix,” he said with a smile. “Lentils.”
Cruz knows them well. It wasn’t long ago that he was receiving bags of food like that one from the FEED ST. PETE food bank, associated with the Pinellas Community Church.
Now, he’s a volunteer there.
“They are all really amazing people. Everyone here is lovely,” said Ruby, a student volunteer from nearby Eckerd College volunteering alongside Cruz.
The food bank fills the needs of about 150 families in Pinellas County.
“The wonderful thing about Feed St. Pete is that it’s 100 percent volunteer run. That’s really important to us,” said PCC pastor Mark Canfield.
“Steve came here a few years ago as one of our clients,” he said. “He would come and he was really downcast, sometimes depressed. But now, even though there are still struggles that he has in his life I think Steve has something to look forward to.
“Something that keeps him looking outward instead of just inward.”
Cruz was depressed from his long list of medical issues. An infection cost him his right leg in 2011. He also endured open-heart surgery in 2003, received a pacemaker in 2007 and recently had surgery to remove masses in his chest.
“Steve has never really made those an issue. He’s always been willing to serve regardless,” said Canfield. “People always find excuses why they can’t. Steve legitimately has an excuse for why he can’t but he doesn’t let that stop him from serving other people.”
It’s how Cruz lives his life now.
“To be honest with you, when I first came here I was embarrassed. I had always had a job. I didn’t know how to take it,” said Cruz. “I love doing this.”
Cruz also visits hospitals to encourage patients who are facing amputation. He was frustrated over losing his leg until he had a revelation: losing his leg didn’t mean losing his identity.
Cruz was given a prosthetic leg from St. Pete Limb and Brace.
“It was (frustrating) until I realized who I am,” he said. “I am a child of God. Therefore I can handle anything that comes my way. It doesn’t bother me at all. Period. I am because God is."
(© 2016 WTSP)