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November 12, 2018

The Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent | Hope is Here

By Justine Burke, Vice President of Marketing

Founded in 1972, Metropolitan Ministries is a local grassroots, donor and volunteer-fueled community nonprofit. We provide practical solutions for poor and homeless families and individuals in the Tampa Bay region. Through services that are designed to alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ, Metropolitan Ministries strives to be America’s most effective and innovative caregiver for those in need.

Related: Places in Tampa Bay where the family can volunteer together 

Our services help individuals, children and families, no matter how serious the need. Whether they need to get off the streets at night or they’re seeking an education so they can get a job that will support their family, we can help.

Healing broken lives and building strong, caring communities 

Evany is 76 years old, retired, and living off of social security. She came to register for holiday assistance. Sometimes she only has one meal a day, cereal and coffee. She says she is grateful because she can turn a Thanksgiving dinner into two weeks worth of meals.

Dan told us that he hasn’t had electricity in his home, where he lives with his wife and four children, for a month and a half. When people come to us for holiday assistance, we often find their suffering is actually year round.

Liz came for help because she has terminal stage 4 cancer and the medical bills have fractured her financially. She said every holiday that comes around is one more she gets to have, and since she was diagnosed with cancer, she’s learned that every day is a gift.

We reach 32,000 homeless or at-risk men, women, and children each year through our services. More than 124 families and 300 children live on our main campuses, and we will case-manage 740 families this year, both on and off campus. Over 400 families were prevented from becoming homeless in the last year through our prevention and diversion programs. During this Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, we will help 20,000 families in four counties, who would otherwise go without, with food and toys so that they may have hope and a reason to smile.

Volunteering at the Holiday Tent

Every year during the holiday season, Metropolitan Ministries constructs what has become an iconic symbol of hope in the Tampa Bay area—the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent. This tent is no ordinary tent. In fact, it has grown over the years to be the size of a football field in order to accommodate more than 100,000 people who will visit during November and December. People from all walks of life come to donate, volunteer and receive services. More than 10,000 volunteers each year give their time and hearts at the holiday tent. Volunteers range in age from twelve to ninety, and teachable moments are everywhere. It’s all about the community uniting for the greater good because no one should go without a holiday if we can do something about it.

Metropolitan Ministries expects 20,000 hurting families that can’t afford a holiday to seek assistance this season. That number is up slightly from 18,000 families in 2017. Families in need are currently registering to receive assistance for food and toys for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The hurt is overwhelming for moms and dads who are struggling to provide for their families. Given the choice, most would go without eating to give their children a holiday. Many are already making extreme sacrifices and there is nothing left over for traditional celebrations and gift giving. Metropolitan Ministries aims to bring Thanksgiving and Christmas to these families through services offered at the holiday tent. Because so much of the food and labor is donated, the Ministries’ cost to provide a hot meal is just $1.96.

More ways to get involved

Without true community collaboration, so many would be left out in the cold with no hope for a future. When individuals, businesses, corporate groups, and families volunteer and donate to Metropolitan Ministries, we are able to provide a holiday experience that is out of reach for so many hurting families in Tampa Bay.

Some of the most important ways to get involved include: hosting a food or toy drive, volunteering, offering your special skill or service, being an advocate, and making a monetary donation. All of these opportunities are available and needed 365 days a year.

Metropolitan Ministries’ main campus is located at 2002 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33602 and the Pasco County campus is located at 3214 US HWY 19, Holiday, FL 34691. The main Holiday Tent is located at 905 N. Governor St. (tucked in just west of North Nebraska Avenue and East Cass Street) in downtown Tampa. For more information, visit metromin.org and metromin.org/holiday-central. Hope counts on you.