TAMPA — Tom Wood dished out helpings of ham and rice Sunday to families at Metropolitan Ministries for what is close to his 20th Easter in a row.
"Seconds are available," he told a volunteer server as he scooped up another helping of rice. "If they're still hungry, we'll give them more."
Wood, who is with Congregation Schaarai Zedek, said he enjoys interacting with the families each year.
"We come down and usually help out on the Christian holidays so other people can celebrate with their families," Wood said. "You give thanks for what you have and realize that a lot of times people don't have everything you do."
While the lunch Sunday was specifically for residents of Metropolitan Ministries' homeless shelter, volunteers there also put together 1,200 meals to deliver to the hungry and the homeless for 30 different partners in four counties.
"Even though there's a need today, it's a need every day," spokesman David Bledsoe said. "We try to make today a little more special with ham and things like that."
Children donned pastels and played around the tables decked in violet, blue and yellow tablecloths. Girls in dresses and boys in button-downs swapped stories about eggs and candy, and who saw the Easter bunny.
At one table, sisters Shavon and Destiny Williams, 6 and 9 respectively, wore matching patterned dresses with orange bows in front. Their little brother, Darnell, played with a green plastic Easter egg he found that morning. The children got four different Easter baskets this year, Shavon said, each filled with candy. "So much candy we're going to get sick," she said.
Destiny said she likes the eggs better, but her sister prefers chocolate bars and gummies.
"We made an Easter bunny cake, too," Shavon said. "It was vanilla, and I ate the icing. I made a carrot and the carrot was inside the bunny's mouth."
The bunny cake wasn't real, Shavon's mom, Darielle Williams, said. Her daughter has an active imagination and likes to tell stories. There might not be a cake, but later that day, they'd go to a family friend's house and search for Easter eggs. The egg hunt is Destiny's favorite part.
Throughout the meal, volunteers would come by and ask if the family needed anything. Julia Miller, 8, had volunteered before, but this was the first time she could work in the kitchen.
"The kitchen's more fun because you get to serve and cook," she said. "I love being helpful."
Julia and others would deliver food, refill drinks and clear dishes.
At one point, volunteer Barbara Nova stopped by the Williams' table and kissed Destiny on the cheek. Darnell looked up, a little surprised at being left out.
"Hey, I love you!" he said, puckering his lips and waiting for a kiss.
Nova laughed and gave him a smooch, too. "Delicious!"
Caitlin Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.