TAMPA, Fla. — From serving their country to feeding their community, one Tampa US Army family is raising the bar when it comes to generosity. 

What You Need To Know

  • Along with their three children, Ulisses and Marla Bautista have moved to different states many times during Ulisses' military career

  • The family started started the Bautista Project Inc., which serves homeless community members in Tampa

  • The family was honored with the General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Award last year

It’s not every day you can take your passion of giving back and spread it across the country, let alone across the world, but that’s what the Bautista family is doing in the Bay Area. We caught up with them during one of their service projects.

“We are packing bags for families in need,” said Marla Bautista. 

Every Friday you can find Marla, her husband Ulisses, and their three children hard at work at the Keeney Chapel on 78th Street. 

SSG Ulisses Bautista has been serving in the U.S. Army for 18 years. As a military family, they move around a lot. 

“We’ve been doing this for three duty stations now. We started this journey in Colorado and in Germany,” said Marla.

Eventually they took their spirit of giving back to their next stop in New York and now in Tampa, where their non-profit, the Bautista Project Inc. became official.

“Doing this whole project is amazing, to bring the smiles on peoples faces and making them feel like they belong in the community is something that I cherish a lot,” said Ulisses Bautista.

“Most of us are only one or two paychecks away from being homeless,” Marla said.

For Marla, this is a personal journey.

“I was actually homeless. I lost both my parents at a really young age and by the time I was 18 I was homeless, I was on the streets,” she said.

They work with the group Grow My Giving to serve families in three nearby neighborhoods just outside of the city.

“The food that we give out is for a family of four, every time we hit number four…some of our families are hitting twelve,” said Twanda Bradley with Grow My Giving.

“Throughout the pandemic we served more than 2,000 families in need and we served more than 1,500 meals to homeless individuals in Tampa. Survival isn’t what life is all about. Everyone has a purpose and I want to be sure that we’re all able to fulfill our purposes in life. I’m fulfilling mine,” Marla said.

Last year the family was honored with the General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Award for the U.S. Army in Central Florida.

Their goal is continue to grow their organization across the Bay Area and beyond.