TAMPA, Fla. - Maria Hernandez takes nothing for granted.
"Just trying to live day by day," she explained. "Being very grateful that I'm still alive,"
And there's a good reason for that. Last year, COVID-19 took a toll on her in more ways than one.
"I was furloughed and I was just stressed out all the time, worried about getting COVID and such. Well I ended up in the hospital for two weeks during that time. I lost my eyesight and my fiancé at the time. He passed away in our apartment," said Hernandez.
The single mom worried about the future for her and her daughter.
"Not only was I now jobless, homeless; I wasn't sure what the next step would be with a disability," she continued.
Metropolitan Ministries turned everything around.
"They helped me out with her schooling. Helping me with assistance with housing, employment. I went back to work. Even going back to school soon, which is something I thought would never happen," said Hernandez.
"COVID hit and their jobs disappeared or they had a hardship and now they need assistance," said Erin Dinsmore, the director of community outreach with Metropolitan Ministries. "And with Metropolitan Ministries and the community, we're able to do that for her and her family."
The $13 for 13 campaign
There's an easy and inexpensive way to help families like Maria's for the holidays. FOX 13 is once again teaming up with Metropolitan Ministries for the $13 for 13 campaign.
Online donations of $13 to Metropolitan Ministries will be matched.
"Thirteen dollars can go a very long way. We can do more with $13 than you can," continued Dinsmore. "With all that combined funding coming in, we're able to help these families, we're able to pull that money together and purchase things in bulk and really provide for the families with the food and the toys and the emergency food that we need in order to sustain these families who can't make it until the end of the month or wouldn't make it through the holidays at all.
"It doesn't have to be something huge because that just means so much to us. It gives us hope that, you know, ‘I can put a smile on my kid's face. Make her feel like everything is going to be OK.’"
Hernandez is gaining her sight back. Thanks to Metropolitan Ministries, she's on a path to helping other families in need.
"I want to be a social worker so I can work with people that are going through what I'm going through right now. I want to be somebody's hope as well," she added.
The $13 for 13 campaign kicks off Giving Tuesday, November 30 and runs through December 17.
How you can help
For information on the Holiday Tent, hours, other drop off locations, most needed items, how to get help and how to volunteer, visit: www.metromin.org/holiday-central
To donate food directly via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/34KG4AQ449EHT?ref_=wl_share
To donate toys directly via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/TL6F6H0NZ19C?ref_=wl_share
To donate food directly via Target: https://www.target.com/gift-registry/gift-giver?registryId=ed112430-02c1-11ec-9fc2-bb953f881906&type=CHARITY
To donate toys directly via Target: https://www.target.com/gift-registry/gift-giver?registryId=4bf779e0-02c7-11ec-81f8-1deab5cee6f5&type=CHARITY
To donate directly via Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/registry/rr/8051068c-fc2a-47c0-baf2-f0d294511e7f