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TAMPA — The Rays long have been aware of the good work Feeding Tampa Bay has done in the area.
So as team officials discussed how best to help community efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, they made a pretty easy decision on where to start, committing $250,000 to the group that provides meals and food service across 10 counties.
“We have been partners with Feeding Tampa Bay for a very long time,’’ Rays president Brian Auld said Thursday. “We know their staff, they know us. We are acutely aware of the needs that arise and have always been someone they can call on in a time of need.
“Two or three weeks ago, we started talking at a very high level about how to best utilize our foundation during this time. We recognized if there was ever a time to dip into reserves and do a few extra things, potentially shift some money around from causes that are very important, like scholarships, and move it towards feeding people, that it would be during this pandemic.
“So this is kind of step one in getting that going and trying to meet some acute needs at the moment.’’
The Rays are making a $100,000 donation and will offer up to another $150,000 in matching funds for an online virtual food drive.
By Feeding Tampa Bay’s calculus, which tells donors that “each dollar you give ... can help provide 10 full meals,” the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund are donating 1 million meals, and will match up to 1.5 million more, for a potential overall contribution of 4 million meals.
The Rays are hoping the matching programs spur a quick response. Donors can contribute directly through the online site, donate.feedingtampabay.org/TeamingUp, or purchase food items from a list.
“We wanted to make sure that they have a million meals in hand right away so they can get working on it, and then ideally we can convert another 1.5 million that the Rays would support into 3 million total and give our fans and community members a chance to feel like they’re part of something just a little bit bigger than themselves,’’ Auld said. “And I suspect we’ll be successful doing that thanks to our efforts to promote and Feeding Tampa Bay’s sterling reputation for helping those in need of food at the most dire times.’’
Feeding Tampa Bay executive director Thomas Mantz noted Wednesday that the Rays were stepping up at a time when their own business was impacted, donating “a lot of money for a business that’s also not getting revenue right now.’’
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Auld said the Rays know it’s a tough time — “a squeeze” — for many businesses and individuals, and they hope their actions prompt others to help those who need help most.
“We aren’t taking in any revenue at the gates, and that means we aren’t running any fundraisers for our foundation, so this is a time to lean on the reserves we have in place and to understand we as an organization are fortunate enough to be able to help as this time,’’ Auld said. “And everybody who is in that same position needs to dig deep, too. So that’s what we’re trying to do.’’
In a news release announcing the program, Mantz said Feeding Tampa Bay is most appreciative of the help:
“Normally, our community would be in the stands, tuning in and cheering on our Tampa Bay Rays. Today, our beloved home team is turning the tables and cheering on our community to get through what is an uncertain and unprecedented time.
"We are in the midst of a crisis where more people need our help. Families are facing difficult circumstances due to missed paychecks and, even worse, layoffs; children are out of school and missing crucial meals; and seniors are being forced into weeks of isolation for their survival.
"The Tampa Bay Rays are standing up with Feeding Tampa Bay, giving us the momentum to provide to-go meals and groceries for our neighbors in our 10-county region. Together, we will get through this and get back to cheering on the team we love.’’
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.
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