By Alissa Bridges

‘Tis the season to be both jolly and generous as we enter the holiday season. Before making up your gift lists this year and running off to the stores, keep in mind that the Brandon and Tampa areas offer several ways to give back to the community as well.


Honor Flight of West Central Florida

(HFWCF) was established in 2010 as an official Regional Hub of the National Honor Flight Network. This network allows HFWCF to provide all expense-paid flights for World War II Veterans in the Tampa area to visit the memorials in Washington D.C. Honor Flight goes on these missions several times throughout the year with the help of corporate sponsors, individual donors and guardians, who fly to Washington D.C. with the Veterans. Those interested in getting involved with Honor Flight this holiday season can do so either by donations or becoming a guardian. For more information on Honor Flight of West Central Florida, visit or call (727) 498-6079.


Lowry Park Zoo

Has two opportunities for animal lovers to give back to make their mark at the zoo this year. There is an Adopt an Animal Package, which starts at $35 and goes towards the support of expert animal care at the Zoo as well as local and global conservation efforts. A second option is to sponsor a bench within the Zoo, which can be a great way to remember a loved one or thank someone special. The bench will then be personalized and put on display at the Zoo. The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Ave. in Tampa. Visit or call 935-8552.


Westfield Brandon Mall

Offers several opportunities to get involved in giving back to the community. One way is through the Sincerely Santa program, where underprivileged children write a letter to Santa asking for gifts and then their teachers jot down student’s special needs as well as ages of siblings and put into a binder. Westfield Brandon supports the Teddy Bear Round-Up in partnership with the Rough Riders of Tampa Bay. New teddy bear donations will be taken to children in local hospitals this holiday season. Teddy bear donations are being accepted at the concierge desk now through Monday, December 24. This year, along with ClearChannel radio, the mall will also host Metropolitan Ministries 40 Years Drive Celebration to help reach 40,000 pounds of non-perishable food items. Food donations can be dropped off at the Westfield Brandon Restaurant Courtyard. Westfield Mall is located at 459 Brandon Town Center Dr. Visit or call 661-5100.


Angel Trees

Keep an eye out for Angel Trees as they pop up at locations throughout the greater Brandon area. Angel Trees are a purely volunteer-driven program with people from all over Tampa Bay donating toys, time and expertise to children who would otherwise not have any gifts to open over the holidays. In the past years, Angel Trees have been located at a variety of churches and places such as Publix Supermarkets, Sweetbay Supermarket, Walmart, Panera Bread and more.


Make A Donation, Make a Difference

Making donations to places such as A Kid’s Place and Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) is another great way to impact the Brandon community this holiday season. A Kid’s Place, located at 1715 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Brandon, provides protection and care for neglected and abused children who have been removed from their homes and is always grateful for their volunteers and donations that come their way. To find out more information on volunteering or where to make donations to A Kid’s Place, call 381-3839. ECHO, located at 501 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon,  provides immediate relief in the forms of food, clothing and household items to those residents of the greater Brandon area that have experienced a recent emergency. ECHO takes volunteers as well as food and clothing donations year-round.

To find out how to get involved in volunteering for ECHO or what items to donate, visit or call 685-0925.

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