TAMPA, Fla. - Thousands of families across Tampa Bay will sit down to a hot Thanksgiving meal today thanks to Metropolitan Ministries, but as CEO Tim Marks explains, their efforts go well beyond dinner.
“When you build relationships with people who are struggling, you can help them navigate out of their crisis,” Marks said. “That’s the goal here to start with a meal and then go further to help them in the best way we can.”
Executive Chef Luis Soto has been preparing for this day for over a month.
“It takes a lot of preparation and coordination to make this happen. This year seems easier than previous years because, thankfully, we’ve had so many people step up to volunteer,” Soto said. “It’s such a privilege to be here and to know that we’re working together to help someone else.”
On Thursday, Metro Ministries will serve 1,500 pounds of turkey, 3,700 pounds of stuffing, veggies and mashed potatoes, 80 gallons of gravy and 1,000 pies to those who might not otherwise be able to afford a meal at all.
“Really what you see here today is the fruition of the community’s support in giving us all those turkeys and vegetables,” said Justine Burke, vice president of marketing. “We can’t do it without the community’s support and the 15,000 volunteers we have throughout the holiday season. To see everyone come together like this is such a blessing and it’s so fulfilling.”
Dozens of volunteers arrived before the sun rose to help, including NFL vet and WWE star Titus O’Neil.
“I love the mission. I’ve been a part of one of those families that benefitted from the generosity and love of others,” O’Neil said. “I’m very fortunate to live in a community like Tampa Bay where so many people come together, not just in times of need and around the holidays, but also throughout the year.”
This year O’Neil’s Bullard Foundation charity partnered with Metro Ministries to help more than 30,000 families through the holidays.
Thanksgiving is just the start to the giving season for Metro Ministries. The non-profit works through December to make sure tens of thousands of families in need will have food on the table and presents under the tree so kids will wake up to a Christmas they might otherwise miss.
There are multiple ways to help this season. From volunteering in the holiday tent to sponsoring a warm meal to picking up an extra toy to donate, every individual bit makes a big difference. To find out more visit, Metropolitan Ministries' website.