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How to help this Thanksgiving in the Tampa Bay area

Local agencies say the need is great this year because of rising costs. And those damaged by Hurricane Ian are still dealing with the aftermath.
A volunteer in 2020 takes turkeys and other meats from the freezer to distribute during the food drive and food distribution operation at Metropolitan Ministries' holiday tent in Tampa.
A volunteer in 2020 takes turkeys and other meats from the freezer to distribute during the food drive and food distribution operation at Metropolitan Ministries' holiday tent in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Nov. 14

If you feel like you have a lot to be thankful for, one way to express that is to give back by volunteering or donating to food drives to help others on Thanksgiving. And there are still ways to help our neighbors in southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian.

All of the organizations we talked to said they are seeing as much as a 30% bump in needs for assistance this year, mostly because of inflation and the rising cost of rent and utilities that are making the holidays painful for those in need. Here’s how you can help.

Volunteers work during a food drive and food distribution operation in 2020 at Metropolitan Ministries' holiday tent. Most needed are frozen turkeys and hams.
Volunteers work during a food drive and food distribution operation in 2020 at Metropolitan Ministries' holiday tent. Most needed are frozen turkeys and hams. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times (2020) ]

Metropolitan Ministries: The nonprofit is marking its 50th year helping the homeless and those at risk with its biggest mobilization in its history. Metro is collaborating with 30 community partners to expand its holiday outreach. In addition to its holiday distribution tent in Tampa the size of a football field, it has also set up a dozen pop-up tents in the highest areas of need in Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Pinellas and Manatee counties. Most needed are frozen turkeys, hams, cereal, canned yams, bagged or boxed stuffing and cranberry sauce. Bagged or canned beans, soup, bags of rice, boxed or canned potatoes, gravy packets, dessert mixes, canned fruit, canned vegetables, boxed macaroni and cheese are also in high demand. The organization is also in need of volunteers at its many sites. You can find out more at metromin.org.

Holiday tent drop-off locations:

  • Hillsborough: 2609 N Rome Ave., Tampa.
  • West Pasco: Generations Christian Church, 1540 Little Road, Trinity.
  • East Pasco: 13703 17th St., Dade City.

Feeding Tampa Bay: Volunteers are needed to help sort through the food that is processed through the warehouse, and also needed for distribution and as servers in Trinity Cafe, a free, full-service restaurant for those in need. The organization accepts donations at feedingtampabay.org or you can send checks payable to Feeding Tampa Bay. Mark it Attn: Development Office, 4702 Transport Drive Bldg. 6, Tampa, FL, 33605.

Thanksgiving bags for needy families filled with food at Daystar Life Center in St. Petersburg.
Thanksgiving bags for needy families filled with food at Daystar Life Center in St. Petersburg. [ KASAMBA KOKAYI | Times (2017) ]

Daystar Life Center: The 40-year-old nonprofit fights hunger and homelessness. It is looking for sponsors for its Thanksgiving baskets, asking for $50 to provide a family a Thanksgiving meal. It will be doing the same for Christmas, where they are also looking for donations for gifts and clothes. It is looking for volunteers to help distribute their holiday baskets and sort donations. Make a donation or sign up to volunteer at daystarlife.com. 1055 28th St. S, St. Petersburg.

Giving Tuesday: After Black Friday, think about this day of charitable giving, which started as a social media campaign in 2012. It has grown into a major annual philanthropic event. The idea was to encourage a show of generosity on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 29 this year, amid a season that traditionally has focused on shopping. Last year, the organization said donors gave more than $2.7 billion on Giving Tuesday. Check the hashtag #GivingTuesday for local efforts and givingtuesday.org.

Hurricane help

The southwest Florida area has an emergency relief cooperative called collaboratory.org that goes to nonprofits throughout the area. The Fort Myers nonprofit is partnering with United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties for the emergency relief fund for those affected by Hurricane Ian.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can register at volunteer.unitedwaylee.org or call 239-433-3900. Cleanup service volunteer agencies or teams may register with Crisis Cleanup, crisiscleanup.org.

Sol Relief, a local nonprofit utilizing small aircraft to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief, has been busy in southwest Florida flying in supplies and food. It is still providing recovery relief and is also planning a toy drive to bring Christmas presents to multiple areas affected by the storm. Toys can be donated Nov. 18-Dec. 10 at the Sol Relief office at Albert Whitted Airport, 107 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg, or at the nearby Hangar Restaurant. You can also donate directly to Sol Relief for gifts online at solrelief.org.

Sol Relief is also looking for volunteers as they work with Good Samaritan Shipping Ministries to help clean out and renovate the homes of families in need in the Fort Myers area, especially the elderly and underinsured. To learn more see solrelief.org/volunteers-needed-for-ian.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.

THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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