Charles and Linda Brink rolled up to Metropolitan Ministries' main holiday tent last November with a rental truck so full of food the tires buckled.
After the Brinks, along with their son Chris, helped unload the goods, Linda watched the parents and children who gathered at the tent. They came not only to receive donations but to rest and build their hope in difficult times.
And even in the wake of giving so much, one thought dominated her thoughts.
"I just felt like I haven't done enough," Linda explained. "Last year, every time we made a drop, I would head right out of here and go back to the stores.
"I have to do more."
So for the second consecutive year, the Brinks have established a matching program with Metropolitan Ministries through its Brink Foundation — and even agreed to increase the offer.
It will match every pound of food donated this season up to 45,000 pounds (an increase from 25,000 pounds). And it will match the pounds of toys left at the tent up to 2,500 pounds. It's Metropolitan Ministries' version of BOGO.
Morris E. Hintzman, the ministries' chief executive officer, speaks with reverence about the Brinks' generosity.
"In their own way, they're living out their dream and vision of helping people. You can't knock that," Hintzman said. "These are people who have had success and they could be planning their next world cruise, but they're planning on giving everyone a pleasant experience."
The big give started with a little berry. Charles Brink moved from Tampa to Utah in 2002 to join a business exporting the acai berry.
Little did he know that Dr. Nicholas Perricone would dub the berry, which comes from a special Amazon palm tree, one of his 10 superfoods. Or that Oprah Winfrey would feature Perricone on her talk show, propelling the popularity of the acai to new heights.
The company grew revenue to more than $1 billion in four years, and Brink sold his interest in 2007. He and the family agreed to establish a foundation that would focus on helping children and low-income families, and it's currently advocating for more equity in the education system.
"Most of what we do, you can't quantify it," said Charles Brink. "The focus of our foundation has a much longer horizon because we're looking at educational policy, but to partner with an entity like Metropolitan Ministries is just a gratifying opportunity to actually touch our ability to make a contribution."
Hintzman says he hopes the Brinks' effort will help other organizations concentrate their efforts, and he quickly adds that the gratification the Brinks derive from giving can be had by all who step up.
"The people who need to receive would love to be where we're sitting, but they have something to give us — the spirit of humility," Hintzman said. "They're real people with real families and real hurts. It's wonderful we can work together and meet each other's needs."
The ministries' website, metromin.org, lists ways to get involved and donate throughout Tampa Bay. And, for those in need, today is the first day that items will be distributed.
I've written a number of columns asking people to do something for someone else. This holiday season, I'm asking you do something for yourself: Find a way to enjoy the fulfillment that comes from giving. Trust me, there's nothing selfish about that.
That's all I'm saying.