A Metropolitan Ministries volunteer sorting food donations.

The holidays are a time for celebration — unless you don’t have enough to eat. This holiday season, at-risk, hungry and hurting families all over Tampa Bay will need you, your prayers and your generosity.

The need continues to be great this year with the rising costs of rent, utilities, gas and food. For families who struggle to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis, the thought of not being able to enjoy a holiday meal can be painful.

Metropolitan Ministries has budgeted to serve 32,000 families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it knows it will serve more — projections currently stand at over 37,000 families.

In addition to its main holiday distribution tent in Tampa, Metropolitan Ministries is setting up pop-up tents in “the highest areas of need” in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Currently, 12 pop-up sites are planned, but the total could go as high as 17, which will include two in Lee County, in areas where families are struggling from the devastation by Hurricane Ian.

“It’s the largest mobilization that Metropolitan Ministries has ever done in our 50-year history,” spokesperson Justine Burke said. “With the help of the community, we are able to do it. The only reason we are able to mobilize is because of all the collaboration. That’s what makes it so awesome. Everybody from all walks of life coming together to help someone that they don’t even know. It’s very unifying in the times we are in right now.”

To serve the thousands of families who will reach out to Metropolitan Ministries for help this holiday season, the organization needs turkeys, canned vegetables and potatoes. Besides the traditional fixings, the organization also likes to include a treat, like a healthy cereal, peanut butter, bread and even dessert, in the holiday boxes given to families.

Those in need of help can register online (www.metromin.org/holiday-central/need-help/) or in person. To mitigate additional travel, Metropolitan Ministries has partnered with strategic, like-minded organizations to offer more sites across Tampa Bay.

The community can also help inspire hope this holiday season by either volunteering at the tent, hosting a donation drive, donating food or toys or donating at www.metromin.org.

For more information on Metropolitan Ministries’ holiday initiative, visit the Holiday Central section of its website at www.metromin.org/holiday-central/.

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