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Gift of Hope looks to boost holidays

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime.

In a way, the statement reflects the approach taken by Metropolitan Ministries. The nonprofit brought its holiday collections effort to Brandon two years ago, erecting a tent much like the one it has in downtown Tampa to serve as a beacon for families in need of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and toy donations.

But it just didn't set up an additional outreach in Brandon. It showed local churches how to collect donations from the community, distribute food and lend Christian compassion to the recipients.

Now, after being shown the way, the churches have assumed control and are operating independent of Metropolitan Ministries.

The new Gift of Hope Tent arose at First Baptist of Brandon last month. It's a joint effort between the Emergency Care Help Organization and 10-plus churches that crosses denominations.

"We're planning to, as best we can, bless families who are walking through difficult times," said Debbie Weisemann, the minister of community outreach at Bell Shoals Baptist and one of the Gift of Hope team leaders. "People anticipate the holidays as a time of great joy, but if you're out of work or without a home, celebrating the holidays can become a hopeless situation."

Other participating churches include Bay Life Church, First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, First United Methodist Church of Brandon, FishHawk Fellowship, Horizon Christian Church, Journey Church, Shiloh Restoration Tabernacle of Brandon, True Sanctuary of Praise of Riverview and United Methodist Church of Sun City Center.

Gift of Hope completed its registration of needy families for the Thanksgiving give-away, but continues to solicit food donations for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It also needs toy donations and volunteers to help with distribution. The volunteers play a critical role because the effort involves more than giving away food. At distribution, parents will be welcomed into the tent while children play on inflatables.

"It's important for them to realize that there's someone who knows you're alive, who's hoping and praying for you and encouraging you," Weisemann said. "It's about taking time to interact with them and love on them and let them know that they're special."

Go to to learn more.

Gift of Hope looks to boost holidays 11/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 3:30am]
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