Pirates are stereotypically known for swashbuckling, plundering and drinking.
Recently, however, one group of pirates is breaking the stereotype and is using its power of booty-collecting for the good of a local city by donating money and food to a nearby food pantry.
On Oct. 22, nearly a month after the Cedar Key Pirate Invasion, which drew around 4,000 people, its host, Joe Catalano, handed a $700 check and 300 pounds of canned food to the Cedar Key Food Pantry.
All of that booty was raised at the invasion.
“There is always somebody that needs help as far as needing money for something,” said Catalano, 50, who owns a fundraising management company, a food website and two walk-in closets full of pirate essentials.
“The food banks end up doing the most good.”
Catalano, who also goes by his pirate name Antonio Gumbatz, said he understands the difficulty of living in the small town of Cedar Key for those who are not in the hospitality business.
Catalano and his wife, Kerry, have been hosting the invasion for two years now in hopes of raising tourist awareness of the city so that local businesses prosper, he said.
Previous pantry director Peggy Delaino said tourists are a key part of the economy in Cedar Key.
The food pantry, located at the Cedar Key United Methodist Church, sees different groups of individuals with needs ranging from single mothers living on fixed incomes to clamming workers in the off-season, Delaino said.
“We always look forward to the snowbirds,” Delaino said.
Snowbirds, or northerners who spend winters in the South, make up a large portion of the volunteers at the food pantry in the winter, she said.
Delaino ran the food pantry for 10 years until Donna Beach accepted the position a few years ago, she said.
“We are so very pleased with Donna,” Delaino said. “She is a very nice, lovely person and a great leader. The need in the community has been filled.”
Catalano said he hopes to continue to fill the need in Cedar Key.
“I would love to do something here in November and December to get more people into town,” Catalano said.
By bringing pirates and other events, Catalano is attempting to expand the current tourist season from four months to six months in hopes of bringing more money to the town and allowing Cedar Key to grow, he said.
The invasion has almost doubled in size since it began in 2013 – bringing more awareness of the city, more tourists and more donations to the food pantry, Catalano said.
In 2014, his first year hosting, $500 dollars was raised for the food pantry.
He said he hopes to raise $1,000 between now and Thanksgiving so that he will be able to provide the food pantry with as many as 75 turkeys.
“Food banks reach out to a lot more people (than other charities),” Catalano said. “They give people the one thing they need the most: food.”