By Amanda Boston
Hunger is not only an issue affecting the homeless. In the Greater Brandon area, one in six people do not know from where their next meal will come and often have to choose between paying utility bills and buying groceries. According to the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) of Brandon, an astounding 94% of those individuals facing this predicament either rent or own a home. For the past seven years, Greater Brandon Gift of Hope has responded to this need by providing hundreds of families with everything required to prepare a delicious holiday meal.
Gift of Hope began as an expansion of Tampa Bay’s Metropolitan Ministries. However, after two years, several local churches assumed the lead, and it evolved into the Greater Brandon Gift of Hope. Every year, the local churches partner with ECHO to provide 600 families with food items to make a tasty Thanksgiving meal. Then at Christmas, 800 families are assisted with food items along with an added opportunity to shop for toys for their children.
Hundreds of families in the Greater Brandon area have fallen on hard times. Those individuals wishing to participate in the program must first register with ECHO to establish a financial need. Next, the participants are given an appointment time to shop for the holiday meal items and toys. Since its inception, Ron Smith, a pastor at First Baptist Church of Brandon has witnessed the program deliver hope during the holidays. He emphasized, “It all starts with dignity because in trying circumstances, they are feeling low. We show these folks how important they are and that God loves them.”
If you would like to donate food items or toys, First Baptist Church of Brandon, located at 216 N. Parsons Ave., will have a collection tent in front of its building from Friday, December 2 until Saturday, December 17. Please refer to the Gift of Hope Website for the exact collection dates, times, and requested items. If you would rather make a monetary donation, the option to purchase a turkey through PayPal is also available.
Furthermore, First Baptist Church of Brandon will operate as the distribution center for the following dates: Thursday, December 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, December 16 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, December 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Please visit www.brandongiftofhope.com for more information or to volunteer.