Elisa and Bob Blair, along with Edwin Font from Palatka, a young man who created ‘Edwin’s Happy Bags’ homeless initiative. This gave Blair the incentive to bring the idea back to the Brandon Elks to start ‘Bags of Brotherly Love.’

Saying ‘Thank You’ is the greatest gift you can give someone. It shows you a person’s gratitude for helping them. This past May, Sonny’s BBQ of Brandon hosted its quarterly Random Acts of Bar-B-Que Banquet at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre in Tampa. This banquet was held to thank individuals or organizations that stand out in the community by doing acts of kindness for their fellow man.

Robert (Bob) Blair of the Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 is one of the individuals who stands out in the Brandon community for his work with the homeless. He and his wife Elisa attended the banquet. “I was once homeless myself for almost a year,” Blair said. “I had a job paying minimum wage and I owned my car, which I was living out of at the time.” A co-worker of Blair’s found out about his situation and offered him some help.

“One of my co-workers caught wind of my predicament and offered me a room in her home for a year, and that gave me the opportunity I needed to get ahead in life,” Blair said. “This allowed me to get out of the rut I had been in and it’s my main motivation for what I do today with the homeless, which is to give them back their dignity.”

Blair and his wife, along with the Brandon Elks Lodge #2383, started the Bags of Brotherly Love which distributes bags of clothing and hygiene items to the homeless in the community once a month. “We have volunteers who wish to donate clothing and other hygiene products to help bring a little more dignity back into their lives,” Blair said.

Ashley Hart, manager of the Brandon Sonny’s BBQ wanted to honor Blair and his wife for all their hard work, but Blair felt there were others in the community who needed to be recognized. “We have been doing this for over two years, working with all these organizations that are set up to help the homeless and to eventually find them housing,” Blair said. “In all that time I had never seen or heard not one individual say ‘Thank You’ to one of those volunteers or organizations or to even shake their hand. To me, these were the people who most needed to be honored, so I nominated everyone and decided to pay tribute to them all at the luncheon.”

If you would like more information on Bags of Brotherly Love or if you would like to donate, email Blair at str8up777@verizon.net.

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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.