Well, it’s been awhile, but what better time to do some good in the world than Christmas!
I joined a group on Meetup called Lend a Hand. It’s all about volunteering and giving back to the community. The organizer Kelly used to organize meetups for The United Way, but now she’s struck out on her own. She has a lot of great things coming up and ideas for the future like working with Habitat for Humanity and feeding the homeless.
Our first Meetup was at Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa.
Metropolitan Ministries’ Mission Statement:
Metropolitan Ministries’ mission is to care for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency…as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.
Originally, there weren’t any spots left for the first trip, but someone dropped out at the last minute which let me raise my hand to jump in. When we got there, we went through a brief orientation. Then, we chose our positions in the Holiday Tent. The Holiday Tent is an amazing operation. Families register to come in, and rather than being given a box of food and some toys, they get to do their own shopping. There is also childcare and refreshments, not to mention that it’s decorated beautifully.
On Friday, I worked in the toys section. The toys are separated by age group and gender. Each person comes in with their shopping cart and a piece of paper that says how many children they have and of what age and gender. They get to pick out one “A” toy, one “B” toy, one stuffed animal, and one stocking stuffer per child in addition to one game or book for the whole family. It was so much fun helping these mothers and fathers find toys their kids would like! However, as of today, Metropolitan Ministries is scheduled to run out of toys! If you live in the Tampa Bay area and can donate something, consider giving to Metropolitan Ministries. They can always especially use infant/toddler and 12-14 year old items. Maybe your workplace would even consider donating? You could volunteer to be the official shopper for your employer!
Kelly booked another last minute trip to the Holiday Tent yesterday, and I jumped a the chance to help out again. This time, I helped with food shopping. It was similar to the toy shopping (although of course not as fun!). The food was divided into cereal, starches, vegetable, yams, stuffing, beans, fruit, cranberry, gravy/broth, sweet, jello, and miscellaneous. They got a certain number of each category based on the number of people in their families. Once again, Metropolitan Ministries could use donations of food items, especially cereal, gravy, cranberries, and sweets (cookies, cake mixes, etc.).
Also, don’t forget that you too can volunteer for Metropolitan Ministries. In addition to the positions I described, they also need computer savvy people for registration, Spanish speakers, childcare providers, and people to just be good company to the homeless. Lend a Hand will be headed out again on Christmas Eve. They also need help after the holiday season, though. In January, they will need people to take down the tent (and it’s a BIG tent). All year, they need people to help serve meals (they serve around 1500 daily). Consider giving back this Christmas!
And don’t forget to check out Lend a Hand and the great opportunities they have coming up as well!
Another fun way I got to give back involved, of course, Will & Toby. PetSmart hosts Christmas photos with Santa and your pet, and the proceeds go to local animal rescues. The day we went, a local Greyhound Rescue was the beneficiary. It’s only $10 and you get a cute picture frame. They’ll be doing it again this weekend at the PetSmart in the Largo Mall.
Finally, just in case you still don’t know how to help out this holiday season, check out this article by Michael Parrish DuDell: