The Lightning are taking out a series of advertisements that have nothing to do with hockey. Instead, their owner, the Vinik family, is trying to help people in need find assistance.
As the family discussed what it could do to help people, Jeff and Penny Vinik’s oldest son, Danny, came up with a suggestion.
“We decided we could have a real impact by informing people where to go for help,” said Jeff Vinik, who is part of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who have loaned $15 million to the Times Publishing Co., which owns the Tampa Bay Times.
The family was concerned some might try to take advantage of those looking for help and decided to use the Lightning brand to indicate a trusted source. The ads have appeared in print mediums including the Times and will also be broadcast on the radio, posted to social media, put on billboards and placed on websites. They target three areas: unemployment, small business assistance and food shortages.
“We thought about where the most need would be,” Jeff Vinik said. “It would the thousands or tens of thousands who have been laid off or furloughed, the thousands of businesses that have shut down, and those who are less fortunate and having trouble putting food on the table.”
In addition, Jeff and Penny, through the Vinik Family Foundation, have donated $300,000 to Metropolitan Ministries, which has seen an astronomical uptick in requests for help. Metropolitan Ministries’ CEO, Tim Marks, said that where the organization was giving out 200 family food boxes a week, it is now providing 300 a day. Staff members are also sorting through 700 to 800 requests for assistance through the Metropolitan Ministries website, metromin.org.
The Viniks’ donation will account for 6,600 boxes of food in April, which works out to between 60,000 and 80,000 meals. It will also go toward Metropolitan Ministries’ rent and utility assistance program.
Marks has seen large donations spark many smaller donations in the past.
“This is not a sprint,” he said. “No single gift is going to solve it. It’s going to take all of us.”
Anyone able to donate can do so at metromin.org, where there is currently a triple match courtesy of Triad Foundation, Analgesic Healthcare and an anonymous donor. So a donation of $1 becomes $4.
“For others that can afford to give and help those in difficult situations," Vinik said, “I would encourage you to do so.”