With Christmas just days away, Metropolitan Ministries’ frontline staff are reporting a 10-15 percent increase in the number of families seeking assistance. Officials will know the exact cause of this jump after the holidays, but at the moment they are seeing more at-risk seniors, grandparents who have suddenly become parents again due to a family tragedy, and working families struggling to put food on the table.
One of these grandparents is Jackie. She came to the tent this week to take care of her 10 children and grandchildren for Christmas. She made her way through the football-field-size Holiday Tent located near the intersection of Cass St. and Nebraska Ave. in downtown Tampa.
Hundreds of volunteers and generous donors have mobilized to help caregivers like Jackie make Christmas happen for their family. When she found out she could have a ham, she cried. Then she received a bike and cried again, and she said, “God set up all these angels just for me.”
Reaching out with a Box of Hope
The Ministries is on track to exceed its original projection to feed 20,000 families between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Through partnerships and satellite locations, the Ministries has turned itself inside out ‘grassroots style’ to serve more families who are unable to travel to the main holiday tent in Tampa. Nearly 50 percent of families will be served outside the Tampa tent. More than 4,000 families are left to serve in Hillsborough and 1,800 in Pasco. Three thousand families will be served in Pinellas. In total, the Ministries will now serve 23,000 for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. That’s 5,000 more families than in 2017—28 percent growth and more families who will get the help they desperately need.
“We’re reaching more hurting families and seniors living alone with the help of partners like the Florida Dream Center in the Lealman community in Pinellas County,” said James Dunbar, Director of Outreach and Prevention.
This is one example of how the Ministries’ collaborative efforts reached 800 families with meals for Thanksgiving and again this past weekend for Christmas. A caravan of volunteers went door-to-door in Lealman delivering Boxes of Hope—enough food to feed a family of four a complete holiday meal.
“This kind of outreach allows us to build a relationship with those that need us the most. Our partners in the community know the need by name,” said Dunbar. “What often starts with a meal opens the door to other services we provide.” Beyond food and housing, the Ministries has an array of programs that include an employment lab, culinary arts program, and counseling center.
This network of meal site partners is helping the Ministries reach everyone in our community, but donations are still needed to make sure everyone coming to Metropolitan Ministries receives hope this Christmas.
Three ways you can help
- Food and toy donations are always a welcome sight and the Holiday Tent drive-through donation lane is open until Christmas Eve.
- Shop online for essential items here, and Metropolitan Ministries will purchase them on your behalf.
- Text HOPE to (813) 544-3737 or visit metromin.org to make a gift right for you.
Metropolitan Ministries’ main campus is located at 2002 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33602 and the Pasco County campus is located at 3214 US Highway 19, Holiday, FL 34691. The main Holiday Tent is located at 905 N. Governor St. (tucked in just west of N. Nebraska Ave. and E. Cass St.) in downtown Tampa. For more information, visit www.metromin.org and www.metromin.org/holiday-central. Hope counts on you.