Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco needs toys, food to serve families in need

HOLIDAY — Rebecca Karpel remembers her own childhood visit to "the North Pole," a colorful Yuletide attraction with a magical toy shop that ignited her imagination.

This year, though, the holidays aren't quite as bright for Karpel, 30, and her family. She lost her job and her apartment this fall. So she and her four children, ranging in age from nearly 2 to 13, have been staying with family and friends.

"The little ones wonder if Santa is coming," she said, adding in a low voice, "They're all worried. We're struggling every day. It's hard. I just want to make things better for my children."

As Karpel visited Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco this week for items from the food pantry, she learned about its annual Holidays of Hope program, which provides toys and holiday food boxes to those in need.

But the program, which has pledged to help 2,200 Pasco families this holiday season, is itself in critical need, woefully short of the donations to help everyone on the list.

"The first of our four holiday distributions is this Sunday, and we don't have enough toys to make it through that day. We have less than 15 percent of the toys we need this year," said Nancy Dougherty, associate director of outreach at Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco. "We are in dire need."

The agency needs toys for all age groups, including cribs and early learning toys for infants, bouncers, baby dolls and preschool play sets for ages 1-4, and fashion dolls, electronic games, building sets and arts and crafts for ages 5-11. The most needed gifts are for kids ages 12-17, which could range from journals to CDs and DVDs, sports balls to makeup and hair accessories.

Donors also can collect food items to fill Boxes of Hope holiday food containers, which can feed a family of four for about three days. The boxes typically include turkeys, boxes of cereal, cans of fruit, vegetable and yams, bags of rice and boxes of potatoes.

"Some of these children would not have any concept of Christmas if the community didn't step up to help them," said the Rev. Dan Campbell, director of the Pasco operations of Metropolitan Ministries. "Often the parents spend what little money they have on essentials, with nothing left over for Christmas presents. Others overspend for the holidays, spending money they don't have just so their children will have toys for Christmas."

If sufficient donations do not come in, Campbell and other staff members plan to dig into their own pockets.

"We've pledged to help these 2,200 families," he said. "We're not going to let them down."

Longtime friends and Pasco residents Noreen Hemmen and Jackie Swarm dropped off about 30 toys Wednesday morning.

"My brother just passed away and I was feeling down," Swarm said. "I called up Noreen and said, 'Let's go shopping for the kids. It will make me feel better.' "

Swarm donated her purchased toys in the name of her brother, Bob Swarm.

Toy donations are being sorted and shelved in a special holiday shop at Metropolitan Ministries, under the direction of volunteer Jean Howell. On scheduled distribution days, parents can tour the brightly decorated shop with a personal shopper, listening to holiday music and admiring ebullient decorations as they select gifts for their children. Mitchell High School student volunteers will be on hand to wrap presents.

A Christmas craft activity will be offered in a separate room to keep the children busy while their parents shop.

"Parents get to choose the gifts their children will receive," said Dougherty. "We call them by a name, not by a number. We want them to be able to shop with dignity."

Karpel signed up Wednesday for Holidays of Hope. And as she looked at the displays of dolls and other playthings, she was reminded of that magical toy shop she visited as a child.

"Now I know my family will have food and gifts this year," she said with a smile. "They'll have something for Christmas."

Comments
Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

CLEARWATER — A Palm Harbor woman was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding with her husband and 10-year-old daughter in a Nissan Sentra late Sunday, police said.Elizabeth Rosado, 30, was in the front passenger seat of the sedan, which was headed...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road closed after crash involving motorcycle

TAMPA — A portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in northwest Hillsborough County following a crash involving a motorcycleHillsborough County deputies say the roadway is expected to be closed between Sunlake Boulevard and Cypress Green Drive for th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

ST. PETERSBURG -- For more than a decade, Gerald Rittinger’s dog kept him alive.The Air Force veteran died on Dec. 3 at age 77. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, who said she would have lost him 14 years earlier if not for their yellow Labrador, Ze...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

The announcement was rolled out to the world as a pledge. A promise.In March 2016 SeaWorld declared it would end killer whale breeding, making the orcas in its care in the United States and abroad its last generation to live in captivity.Later that y...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

For decades, Americans were told that Area 51 didn’t really exist and that the U.S. government had no official interest in aliens or UFOs. Statements to the contrary, official-sounding people cautioned, were probably the musings of crackpots in tinfo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Jon Gruden will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor tonight, but could it be more than just that as the Glazers may be looking for a new head coach come January? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether Gruden would coac...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Homestead boy, 13

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 13-year-old Homestead boy.According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, John Noble-Sinclair had last seen Sunday in the area of 300 block of Southwest 4th Avenue.The case has been resolv...
Updated: 3 hours ago
LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

WASHINGTON — LeBron James made a statement during an NBA game with his shoes — one black, one white, with the word "equality" in capital gold letters on the back of each.Then, after the game, James made a statement about President Donald Trump, sayin...
Updated: 3 hours ago