As our community continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic impact it has made on so many local families, Metropolitan Ministries has seen a huge uptick in requests for assistance as many other non-profit organizations have.
We wanted to learn more about the need and how families like yours can help, so we asked Justine Burke with Metropolitan Ministries to give us more of an insight at what’s going on here in Tampa Bay.
Tell us about how the pandemic has impacted your organization and the families you serve?
Justine Burke: The reality for many of the families we serve is that they are needing our help and hope for the very first time.
The effects of COVID-19 have hurt many jobs, especially in the service industry, and we are seeing families hit hard. We have rapidly adapted, with many of our services moved to electronic, community-based, and drive-through models.
Facing these serious challenges, we have also seen the community step up and meet the need better than ever through volunteering, online giving, and drives.
How can families help you all support those in need?
Justine Burke: The three best ways to support those in need is with your time, advocacy, and financial support.
With your time, we have volunteering opportunities 7 days a week. Families are now coming to serve in record numbers.
With advocacy, follow us on social media. Help get the word out about what we do for both those in need and others who might want to support. One of the newest ways to do that is with virtual drives, an online option to help get the exact items we need to serve our clients.
Last, but not least, is financial support. We have multiple ways to give on our website which offers flexibility in this ever-changing environment.
What do you need to know about volunteering? How old do you have to be and what will we be doing when we sign up?
Justine Burke: First and foremost, we are looking after the health of our clients and the community. You can expect to receive a temperature check, everyone to be wearing a mask, and social distancing. The best news is you can get started right now!
We have all our opportunities across Tampa Bay on our website and children as young as 8 years old can participate. It varies a lot by location and day, but you can expect to be helping with a large variety of tasks, including: unloading donations from the community, sorting donations, building food boxes for those we serve, helping keep our campus beautiful, and so much more.
One of the best things about Metropolitan Ministries is that we are flexible! We are constantly adapting to the needs of the community, and you can expect your volunteer experience to reflect that.
As we approach the holiday season, what are you anticipating the needs to be and how can we start thinking ahead to assist?
Justine Burke: This holiday season, we anticipate serving up to 40,000 families spanning 5 counties! With such a massive undertaking, we already have some of our holiday volunteering and drive needs up on our website today. All the ways to help those in need mentioned above apply here to an even greater level.
We are anticipating the need for 12,000 volunteers over the holiday season, and with many organizations not coming back to volunteer, we are relying on families and individuals to fill that need.
Many families have told us that what brings them the most joy is going to the store and picking out some of our most needed items. Together as a family, they shop for a family in need (turkeys, yams, toys) and then come serve at the holiday tent. It’s a teachable moment for the children. Seeing the bigger picture makes the biggest impact!
Anything else you want to add?
Justine Burke: There is a lot of fear going around right now, and though we are taking all the precautions to keep everyone safe, the biggest antidote we have found here is HOPE. That’s why this holiday season we are spreading HOPE.
There is no better time to get involved and see the absolute best that Tampa Bay has to offer than seeing how we can come together as a community. The families we serve get the things they need to make it through the day, but most important is the HOPE you provide that makes it all possible.
Learn more by visiting metromin.org.
Photo taken pre-pandemic. Expect to wear a face mask when you volunteer this year.
Related stories we think you’ll enjoy: