By Linda Chion
Fourteen years after she helped her children earn community service hours as Newsome High School runners staging a Thanksgiving Day race, Leda Eaton is leading the charge for the 14th annual FishHawk Turkey Trot and the Seeds of Hope food bank it supports.
That both Seeds of Hope and the trot have become fully entrenched in Eaton family lore is a given, as it is equally established in FishHawk, where thousands of runners from throughout Tampa Bay arrive for the holiday race. Their aim is to support both the race and the food bank, which students help run under the mentorship of adult leaders.
“It’s a different world we’re living in right now,” Eaton said. “So many kids aren’t exposed to community service hours that involve giving back to the community in a meaningful way. We emphasis the importance of doing something selfless for others.”
Leading the effort are students from nearby schools, including Bloomingdale, Newsome and Riverview high schools, along with homeschooled students “and adult leaders who mentor these kids and want to see them succeed,” Eaton said. Strawberry Crest High School in Plant City has been involved in the effort as well.
With its mission in mind, to nourish hope through community service, the Seeds of Hope food bank is open on Thursdays for boxing food items delivered a day earlier, and which are distributed from 5-7 p.m., or until supplies are depleted. Space for the independent, nonprofit food bank is provided at the Presbyterian Church of Bloomingdale, at 710 E. Bloomingdale Ave. in Brandon.
Now in its 12th year, the demand for Seeds of Hope food boxes has been steady and growing, with 350 boxes distributed weekly.
With inflation and a bear economy coming on the heels of a health pandemic, “there’s just a lot of need out there,” Eaton said. “Every week we’re getting new people. I don’t know how to put that genie back in the bottle. It started with COVID, and we haven’t seen it let up since.”
Fortunately, “we have great kids in the community, I see that every day, and our community is always willing to help,” Eaton said. “It’s unconditional giving and students getting motivated to get meaningful service hours.”
In support of the food bank, the FishHawk Turkey Trot kicks off on Thursday, November 24 at 5668 FishHawk Crossing Blvd., with races that include a timed and untimed 5K walk/run, 10K timed walk/run and 1-mile fun run. Also on tap, a 250-yard mini run for “kids and kids at heart,” photos with turkey mascots, dancing to the “Wobble” song, arts and crafts and special ribbons for the top 100 finishers in each race age category. The fee for each entrant includes as well a race T-shirt and medal.
For more on Seeds of Hope and to register for FishHawk Turkey Trot 2022, visit www.sohopefl.org. Registration fees increase after Tuesday, November 22. Sponsorships are available through Saturday, October 15 for businesses seeking to be identified on the back of more than 3,000 race T-shirts. Contact Millie or Dan Shikes at firstname.lastname@example.org.