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Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive Nov. 24

What’s got 400 arms, 200 smiles and a bundle of enthusiasm large enough to move nine tons in a flash?

It’s our community’s volunteers for the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive!

This month they want to challenge everyone to make their jobs a lot more difficult.

On Nov. 24 your neighbors will be gathering once again at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center before fanning out into Westchase’s villages to collect donations for Metropolitan Ministries. The food drive has grown by leaps and bounds since its inauguration six years ago by Ben Stein of Harbor Links/The Estates. Stein, now a student at University of Florida, established the Westchase tradition as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Last year at least 974 of Westchase’s 3,475 homes participated, representing a 42 percent increase over the previous drive. In addition, 200 turkeys were donated, a 35 percent increase over the previous year.

“Last year the Westchase drive produced over 17,000 pounds of food,” observed Christina Barker, Manager of Community Donations at Metropolitan Ministries. “That’s definitely one of the largest drives we have all year.”

Barker added, “The commitment from your community to serve families at Thanksgiving is very touching.”

Westchase’s generosity was recognized this past year when Metropolitan Ministries recognized the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive with their Golden Barrel Award.

If you’ve participated in the drive in the past, your generosity is needed more than ever. With government aid cutbacks and unemployment rates still high, demand at local food banks has never been greater. Further, Metropolitan Ministries has issued a bigger challenge by sending a third truck out to Westchase in hopes we can fill it.

If you’ve never participated in the food drive, a handful of generous businesses have stepped forward to offer matching grants to help encourage you. Josh Butts of Cornerstone Insurance has committed to matching one turkey for every two donated (up to 50) while Nancy and Doug Wood of The Wood Team at Coldwell Banker will donate two cans of food for every turkey donated.

WOW is looking for even more residents and businesses to participate in the food drive’s matching campaign. Simply e-mail WOW Publisher Chris Barrett at for information.

That’s not all. This year the neighborhood with the highest percentage of participating homes will win $300 for a holiday block party. Last year Keswick Forest’s residents seized the honor but Glencliff and Greensprings were nipping at their heels. To encourage those neighborhoods whose participation has been low in the past, WOW is also offering $250 for a holiday block party to the neighborhood who shows the greatest improvement over last year. Round up your neighbors, organize their participation and some of your fun this holiday can be on WOW!

The Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive gives residents a simple way to help out. Simply purchase as many of the food items as you wish from the list running with this article (click here to open the list) and place them out on your driveway at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24 (West Park Village residents, however, are asked to place donations out at the curb rather than in the neighborhood’s alleys). This year even residents of West Park’s apartment can drop off non-perishable donations prior to the drive at their management office at the end of Montague Street.

Then Westchase volunteers will do the rest.

Already work is underway to ensure the success of this year’s drive. Dozens of your fellow neighbors will canvass Westchase neighborhoods and deliver reminder flyers over the weekend of Nov. 16-17.  On Sunday, Nov. 24, volunteers will then drive through the community to pick up donations.
If you are donating a frozen turkey, please place it out as close to the 1 p.m. pick-up as possible to help keep it frozen.

If you depart for your family’s holiday celebration prior to the drive, please just ask a neighbor to set your donations out. Doing so will help encourage others to participate.

A Growing Need

In recent years, the state, local and even federal governments’ budget cutbacks have had a dramatic effect on aid for our community’s most needy. According to Feeding America Tampa Bay (an organization that assists local food banks), 700,000 residents of West Central Florida struggle with hunger and 250,000 of them are children. Should there be any doubt about the area’s growing need, a visit to any Tampa Bay food bank will elicit stories from its volunteers, telling of their struggles to keep the shelves filled. Unfortunately, even having a job is no guarantee a family will enjoy food security. One-fifth of clients served at local food banks have a family member who is working. Minimum wages, however, don’t go very far toward providing both shelter and food for a family.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report in 2011, 15 percent of Florida’s homes struggle to find enough money to put food on the table. Florida’s problem with hunger has crept up in the aftermath of the Great Recession. From a 12 percent average in 2006-2008, it reached 15.4 percent of state residents in 2011, where it has remained unchanged. Florida ranks 14th among all states for the highest rates of hunger. Most of the top ten states on the hunger list are located in the Deep South.

Speaking of Metropolitan Ministries’ mission, Barker stated, “We are serving the families who really need it most in the community. And without us here helping them, many of them wouldn’t have a meal at the holiday.”

She added, “For every can of food and turkey they bring in, your residents can be assured that it is going to families who need it most – and that the children of Tampa Bay are being taken care of.”

Metropolitan Ministries

A Tampa institution, Metropolitan Ministries is an ecumenical organization that assists Tampa’s community of homeless and hungry citizens in ways that instill both dignity and self-sufficiency. Established in 1972 by 13 churches of different denominations, Metropolitan Ministries now occupies a sizable campus on Florida Avenue and helps tens of thousands of Tampa Bay’s poorest families – and their children – each holiday season.

Residents who would also like to volunteer with the drive – collecting food and loading and unloading the trucks – can contact WOW Publisher Chris Barrett at

See you on Nov. 24!

Can You Top Last Year?

The list below shows the ranking of Westchase neighborhoods in order of participation levels, with the greatest participation at the top.

Village Name


Keswick Forest




The Greens: Greensprings




The Bridges: Sturbridge


The Estates














The Greens: Greenmont


The Bridges: Stonebridge






The Bridges: Baybridge


The Greens: Greendale


Saville Rowe


Village Green


The Greens: Greencrest


The Bridges: Stockbridge


The Greens: Greenpointe




The Enclave


The Greens: Greenhedges




The Vineyards


The Bridges: Woodbridge


The Bridges: Wakesbridge








West Park Village (except Village Green)


Tree Tops


Berkeley Square


By Chris Barrett, Publisher; Photos by James Broome Photography


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