TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The ranks of those in turning to Metropolitan Ministries for help are increasing this holiday season.
Just ahead of Christmas, the organization has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of people showing up at their holiday tent.
Casie Rodriguez was there on Friday, shopping for a relative's five kids. Their main breadwinner is no longer in the picture.
"Not necessarily in passing on, but just in presence and spirit," she said.
Casie spent the afternoon picking out toys and food.
"There are a lot of people who go through the holidays and don't have anything," she said. "Especially when struggling, it takes a lot to try and come together this time of year."
She is one of 23,000 who will line up this season. That is up from 18,000 last year who registered for Metro Ministry's holiday assistance program.
"Yesterday, we gave [a woman] a ham," said the program's director of communications, Justine Burke. "She broke into tears of joy, over a ham."
They believe the biggest reasons for the increase are more seniors who are visiting them on fixed incomes, and more single mothers on minimum wage jobs.
They are short on supplies and want people to come forward with new, unwrapped toys, even with just a few days to go.
"We would love for you to think of our families while you are out there and bring something down," said Burke. "We are here till 4 o'clock on Christmas Eve."
At Casie's house, Christmas Eve is in much better shape than it was before.
"I feel good," she said. "I definitely feel good. I can't wait to go home and wrap them up."
LINK: For a list of the most-needed items and donation locations, go to www.metromin.org/holiday-central/holiday-drop-off-locations/