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Metropolitan Ministries brings Christmas spirit to thousands in Tampa Bay

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Mode of transportation is not the issue. Getting Christmas dinner and toys to families is.

Arriving by often-compromised automobiles, mopeds, rusty bicycles, public transportation and many on foot, the families served by Metropolitan Ministries throughout this holiday season have reasons to smile, if only temporarily.

Arriving by often-compromised automobiles, mopeds, rusty bicycles, public transportation and many on foot, the families served by Metropolitan Ministries throughout this holiday season have reasons to smile, if only temporarily.

Relying on corporate and community donations, 17,642 families received help during the 2014 holiday season. Metropolitan Ministries’ Director of Communication Shawn LaFata said they most likely will surpass that figure this season. “Right now we’re projecting around 19,000 families served from Thanksgiving through Christmas,” La Fata said. “The need increases each year.”

“Right now we’re projecting around 19,000 families served from Thanksgiving through Christmas,” La Fata said. “The need increases each year.”

LaFata explained that Metropolitan Ministries “started with a sandwich.” Forty-three years ago, pastors from 13 Tampa churches, each feeding sandwiches to the hungry, unified their efforts to form Metropolitan Ministries. Since then, the organization has blossomed into an umbrella of services helping those going through difficult times.

Campuses at its Tampa and Holiday locations house homeless families. Meals. clothing and toiletries are distributed to the needy throughout the year.

The foundation of the nonprofit is multifaceted. One of its main focuses is on helping children and families get off the street at night and to provide those in need with food and job services, including education.

Metropolitan Ministries services include gift distribution to families and children living at the Tampa and Holiday campuses. And its outreach programs continue to evolve.

But it’s Metropolitan Ministries’ Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities that draw thousands from around the Tampa Bay area and beyond. Its 36,500-square-foot Tampa tent and a smaller version in Pasco County, are set up to accommodate the needy and treat them with dignity. Clients can shop the “grocery store” to select items specific to their needs. More than 10,000 volunteers man the tents.

Its 36,500-square-foot Tampa tent and a smaller version in Pasco County, are set up to accommodate the needy and treat them with dignity. Clients can shop the “grocery store” to select items specific to their needs. More than 10,000 volunteers man the tents.

LaFata said that more than 100,000 people — volunteering, donating or seeking help — visit the Holiday Tents.

With daily meal sites in four counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco), the nonprofit offers nutrition year-round.

On Christmas Day, nine meal sites will be open from 9:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m.

“We would never turn a person away,” LaFata said.

LaFata said Christmas dinner will include turkey and all the trimmings. Walk-ups are accepted.

Metro Ministries is still accepting Christmas gifts for the 263 children living on their campuses this holiday.

You can donate through Christmas Eve by dropping off donations to one of their two primary locations:

METRO MINISTRIES — TAMPA, 400 W. Palm Ave., Tampa. Accepting donations until 1 p.m.

METRO MINISTRIES — PASCO, 3214 U.S. 19 N., Holiday. Accepting donations until noon.

For detailed information about “all things holiday” and meal site locations at Metropolitan Ministries: www.metromin.org/holiday-central.

Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
The Perez family helps those in need Thursday as volunteers in Metropolitan Ministries’ holiday food giveaway. From left, Edgar, 13; dad, Juan; mom, Jeronima; and Hector, 16, take a moment’s break. “I try to show the children that life and especially Christmas are not just about receiving but giving too – especially from one’s heart,” their mom said. Both boys agreed the work was fun. “I like having the feeling of helping others in need,” Hector said. “I definitely want to do this again.”Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
Clients are Metropolitan Ministries are afforded dignity and respect as they can shop through the aisles of the tent, selecting what best suits their needs. Volunteers guide each client, often pushing their cart for them. — at Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent. Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco
Ruby Hayes, 12, and mom Destinee Marsh await public transportation after picking up holiday provisions at Metropolitan Ministries. They were surprised to get a tree, a late drop-off by an anonymous donor. Though they have no decorations, they said they have a few lights a home. Photo credit: Kimberly DeFalco

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