Tampa Bay Philanthropist and Volunteer Marcela Loparco
Berkeley Preparatory School would like to nominate Marcela Loparco for recognition as a generous philanthropist who is also a tireless volunteer. Marcela goes above and beyond in her efforts to support members of our Berkeley Preparatory School community as well as the Tampa Bay community. A few of her important roles include serving as a member of our Family Service Council, a volunteer leader in our Food Pantry, coordinates our school’s holiday Wrap-In to benefit Redlands Christian Migrant Association School, and is a supporter and volunteer at the Berkeley Academy. Marcela’s commitment and hard work deserve special recognition.
Most notably Marcela’s remarkable dedication and selfless contributions to our Berkeley Food Pantry makes her a perfect candidate for this award.
The Berkeley Food Pantry is part of the Feeding Minds school pantry program provided by Feeding Tampa Bay. Our mission is to provide food, clothes, and other necessities to our Town ‘n’ Country neighbors in need. The food pantry was originally established by members of our neighboring Chapel of the Pines Church. When church members could no longer run the pantry, Berkeley Preparatory School stepped in to continue their great work and has been running the pantry since January of 2021.
Marcela has been involved since the very beginning and is often referred to as “the heart of the pantry”. Every other Thursday, she leads a team of parent volunteers in receiving food from Feeding Tampa Bay. She unloads large pallets of food and organizes all the food on the shelves. This is a strenuous volunteer job, and she does it all with a smile. Marcela takes initiative to suggest improvements and implement new ideas to make our pantry operations more effective and efficient. Her attention to detail, hard work, efficient nature, and dedication to innovation allows the Berkeley Food Pantry to now serve 60 households on Saturdays in less than two hours. Marcela works tirelessly, often staying after everyone has left, to ensure that the pantry is clean and ready for the next distribution. Marcela’s problem-solving skills are second to none and have been invaluable during unforeseen challenges. When we had a water issue at the pantry, she made sure we had a new sink and clean water at the pantry so that volunteers and patrons could wash their hands. And that is Marcela – kind, gracious, and unwaveringly dedicated to service.
In 2022-2023, the Berkeley Food Pantry served approximately 60 families per week, of which, 30% were seniors, 45% were families with children, and 25% were single-person households. We have served 1,420 households, provided food for 3,896 individuals. Marcela interacts with these patrons with the utmost respect, warmth, compassion and empathy. Every other Saturday, she welcomes the patrons with open arms and makes sure their needs are met. She asks them about their children and their families, and they all look forward to seeing her. When one of our patrons, a single dad with two small children, was struggling, Marcela brought clothes from our clothes closet to his home so that his children to wear. She gives patrons a ride home when they need them, and she is always willing to bring food to their homes if they cannot make it to the Pantry on Saturdays. Marcela has the unique ability to make those in need feel valued and supported during difficult times. Her tireless commitment to ensuring that no one in our community goes hungry is truly inspiring.
Marcela’s additional contributions to the greater Tampa Bay community are also vast and impressive. In addition to giving generously of her time and resources to the Berkeley Food Pantry, she has been generously supportive of the Berkeley Academy.
Launched in the summer of 2016, the Berkeley Academy is a signature service program for low-income, highly motivated students in our Tampa Bay community to stop summer learning loss and help them achieve their dream of going to college. The mission of the Berkeley Academy is to provide a supportive, enriching, and academically rigorous college preparatory environment for the students it serves. The Berkeley Academy is committed to helping all its students reach their full, unique potential and provides the tools necessary to make college a reality. We founded the Berkeley Academy with a promise to each scholar that this program would be a reliable resource for them throughout their entire journey toward college. To make good on that promise requires ongoing resources and the work of dedicated volunteers, year after year. Marcela and her family not only financially invested in the program, she coordinated “Brain Food Bags” program that would send food home each Friday afternoon with each of the scholars so they would have access to healthy food during the weekend, along with encouragement to keep their brains working.
Her generous heart also extends to students who attend school in the Wimauma area. Each year she coordinates Berkeley’s Holiday “Wrap-In”, a program that yields over 1800 presents annually for under-served students in that area of our county – guaranteeing that no student goes without a present at Christmas. This program brings joy to the students and faculty who contribute gifts and huge smiles to the families who receive the presents.
When asked to reflect on Marcela, our Director of Community Engagement said, “I am not sure if Marcela realizes how much of a role model she is to everyone in our community. Her commitment to our Pantry, our school, and our entire community sets an example for all of us. Our school’s motto is “Berkeley puts people in the world who make a positive difference.” Marcela is a true representation of that motto. Her contributions have had a lasting and far-reaching impact on our community, and recognizing her efforts will undoubtedly inspire others to follow in her footsteps.”
It is for these reasons and so many others that we nominate Marcela Loparco for this prestigious recognition.