The Branches opened in 2007 in one bay of a strip mall as a place for parishioners of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stone Harbor and members of St. Barnabas by the Bay in Villas, to come together for coffee and conversation, Bible studies, and special events.
With the church thrift shop next door, there were lots of walk-in visitors and it became apparent that there was a growing population in need in Rio Grande. The Branches started providing meals, clothes, and other support for those experiencing homelessness and financial difficulties. Word rapidly spread throughout the county and soon churches, restaurants, local agencies, and individuals were donating food, clothing, and their time to care for the growing underserved population. The mission and services were expanded and we became The Branches Outreach, an official 501(3)c non-profit.
Sandra and Fr. Ron Lockhart started a mobile ministry – loading up cars and delivering food and basic necessities to several nearby motels. In 2021, The Branches Outreach purchased an official van to handle this ministry. Soon after the food pantry opened, where people can select groceries for the week.
In 2015, Terri Mascione, having tragically lost her son, joined The Branches Outreach staff in his honor. In addition to working alongside Sandra and the volunteers, Terri began special programs for children – a day at Morey’s Pier, birthday parties, and holiday gift events.