Big Potato Foundation Cares for the Apopka Community

When Apopka needs help, Pam Welker finds a way to provide it.

The director of charitable programming for the Big Potato Foundation regularly offers food donations for the hungry, clothing and school supplies for disadvantaged children and support for the homeless. She spends many days coordinating with donors and making sure their generosity benefits those who need it most.


The foundation manages the Billie Dean Community Garden and provides art and music programs in Apopka. Members are restoring Apopka’s historic Seaboard Airline Railway Depot, and they assist with popular annual events like the Old Florida Outdoor Festival. The City of Apopka now is partnering with the Big Potato Foundation, providing proceeds from certain special events like the Old Florida Outdoor Festival to support community programs. Welker loves to help her community. It’s that same spirit that inspires everything about the Big Potato – a local organization with an unusual name and a benevolent mission to improve life for many in Apopka.

Through Big Potato, Welker supports nearly a dozen charitable organizations.

“I go where the need is,” Welker said recently while delivering donated towels to the Spirit of Life Recovery Center – a 45-bed treatment facility on U.S. Highway 441 that assists men with crippling alcohol and drug addictions. “I get such a blessing out of it.”

The Recovery Center depends on donations of clothes, food and hygiene products. “If it wasn’t for folks like Pam, we would have big problems around here,” said senior pastor Gary Ridgway.

Spirit of Life provides faith-based recovery services to help men overcome addictions and restore productive employment. Residents include the homeless and veterans struggling to cope with life after military service. A typical stay at the center is nine to 12 months.

Welker relies on a network of supporters throughout Apopka to coordinate donations: “People want to do something – they just don’t know what to do.” Businesses like Wawa and Kentucky Fried Chicken provide hundreds of pounds of food each week to feed families in need.

An Extended Outreach program provides dozens with Thanksgiving dinners each year. Extended Handyman provides home maintenance and other repair services. Munificent Market is a free garage sale of donated items.

The Big Potato Foundation combines all these services with art and music programs and community improvement projects. The organization started in 2011through the efforts of the Jordan family – 5th generation Apopkans with close connections to the community.

The Big Potato name reflects part of Apopka’s history. The area was often called “The Big Potato.” Native Americans called the area Ahapopka. Aha, meaning “Potato,” and papka, meaning “eating places”.

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