TAMPA (FOX 13) - The kitchen at the Tampa campus of Metropolitan Ministries is operating on the level of a five star restaurant.
Chefs are preparing gourmet sandwiches and treats to distribute to some big businesses, including Tampa International Airport. Leading the charges at this culinary operation called "Inside the Box" is catering coordinator Chely Figueroa.
"Their concept is a meal for you, a meal for them and for every meal purchased the proceeds go back into our mission statement," said Figueroa.
She recalls being one of those at Metropolitan Ministries who benefitted from programs like this.
"Couple of years ago I was homeless with my son and came here for a safe haven, and I found it," said Figueroa.
But the journey to get to that safe haven with her little boy in tow turned out to be a long one.
"Walked 18 miles and it was just if you can take it, you can make it. And that was my making point at that time. I decided to make that journey here to start a new life," said Figueroa.
Tim Marks, the President and CEO of Metropolitan Ministries has been there for Chely's journey. He could not be more proud of the woman who has become a leader at the charity she once relied on.
"Now she's a manager at Metropolitan Ministries and she's just a great beacon of hope to the other women who come into the shelter", said Marks.
Chely is thankful to Metropolitan Ministries for providing for her and her son during their darkest time. Toy donations brought a much needed light.
"The just do a lot for the children so that's important to make sure we keep them distracted so that they're not feeling sad like their Christmas isn't worth anything," said Figueroa.
She can't stress enough just how important community donations of food and toys can mean for families during the holidays.
"Our children, they're going to be so happy to receive these gifts come Christmas morning or Christmas eve, whenever they can open their gifts. It's just something that they can look forward to," said Figueroa.
For information on how to donate to Metropolitan Ministries, visit metromin.org.