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Westchase’s 10th Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive Nov. 19

This year marks the tenth Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive and we need your help to break all records!

To help accomplish that, WOW will expand its the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive to all subdivisions within Highland Park, Mandolin, Windsor Place and Westwood Lakes this month.

Last November a record 1,112 Westchase homes participated, donating 429 turkeys. In total, last year we filled three trucks with an estimated 39,725 pounds of food and, with corporate matches, 603 frozen turkeys.

This year, we’re adding a fourth truck and need your help to fill it.

Looking forward to the community drive, Metropolitan Ministries CEO Tim Marks said, “Without committed partners like Westchase, we simply could not do what we do to help alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency to the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community.”

This year WOW will bring the food drive to 1,600 more homes in areas that receive WOW Northwest. Metropolitan Ministries’ staff and WOW hope the residents of Highland Park, Mandolin, Windsor Place and Westwood Lakes embrace this generous tradition for a great cause.

To enhance participation, WOW is offering to pay $300 for a holiday block party for the top performing neighborhoods. This year two neighborhoods with the highest percentage of homes donating frozen turkeys will win $300 for a holiday block party. One prize will be offered in Westchase and another in the top subdivision that receives WOW Northwest.

WOW is also offering $250 for a holiday block party to the Westchase neighborhood that shows the greatest improvement in overall participation in the food drive over last year. (See the neighborhood table from last year for results and organize your neighbors to participate.) 

“We are extremely grateful for the kind generosity of the Westchase communities!” said Marks. “Since 2009 Westchase residents and businesses have generously responded to the needs in the greater Tampa Bay area by hosting one of our largest community holiday food drives each year.”

Marks added, “Through their faithful support they have donated 147,240 pounds of food, including 2,255 turkeys and have served thousands of needy families during the holidays!”

Business Matchers

To further encourage residents to participate, a number of generous businesses have committed to making corporate matches. They will match portions of your contributions so you can have an even bigger impact.

Who is participating?

Our longest committed corporate matchers, Josh Butts of Cornerstone Insurance and The Wood Team of Smith & Associates are both returning. Cornerstone Insurance has committed to donate one turkey for every four donated. The Wood Team has committed to matching one can of food for every home that participates in the drive.

Also returning this year are Clinical Psychologist Dr. Maria Aranda and Pediatrician Dr. Christine Armstrong of Children’s Medical Center of Westchase. Both have committed to matching one can for every turkey donated by residents.

This year we also welcome two new business matchers.

Maria Kletchka of Keller Williams Tampa Properties will donate 50 cents to Metropolitan Ministries for every home that participates in the drive. Meanwhile Dianna McHugh and Andrew Kelly of Mathnasium have promised to donate one turkey for every 100 resident-donated turkeys donated (up to four turkeys) and one can for every 25 homes that participate (up to 150 cans).

How to Help?

To join the community effort, simply purchase as many of the food items as you wish from the list running with this article and place them out on your driveway at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19 (West Park Village and Highland Park residents, however, are asked to place donations out by their mailboxes at the curb rather than in the neighborhood’s alleys).

Whether you can afford only a few cans or an entire meal (see our Box of Hope inset for the list), we welcome your participation. If you are donating from your pantry, please check expiration dates before placing items out for donation. As part of the drive, food is sorted and expired items have to be discarded.

The weekend prior to the drive, volunteers will leave a flyer with the list at your door so you can take it to the supermarket with you.

If you’re leaving town before Sunday, Nov. 19, you can still participate. You can drop your donations off early at 10314 Seabridge Way in The Bridges or at the The Wood Team’s Smith & Associates office in the Westchase Publix plaza.  You can also leave donations with a neighbor to set out on your driveway on Nov. 19. (No frozen turkeys can be dropped off early, however, since no freezer space is available). Please include your address and subdivision name with your donation so that your neighborhood receives credit.

WOW’s food drive volunteers will do the rest. Dozens will canvass neighborhoods and deliver reminder flyers over the weekend of Nov. 11-12.  On Sunday, Nov. 19, volunteers will then drive through your neighborhood 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 are interested in volunteering with the drive, simply e-mail WOW Editor Chris Barrett at We especially need volunteers in the Westwood Lakes neighborhood.

Why Donate?

Speak to any volunteer at any of Tampa Bay’s food banks, and they’ll tell you this: many of our stereotypes of poor and struggling families don’t match up with the families walking through their doors.

Two-thirds of food bank families with children have at least one working adult, usually with a full-time job. But a minimum wage job in Florida pays under $16,000 annually before taxes.

Seventy-six percent of those earning the minimum wage are 20 or older. Fifty-five percent of those making the minimum are women.

In Tampa, the average one-bedroom apartment rents for $850 monthly and a two-bedroom apartment averages over $1,00. Average monthly childcare expenses in Tampa range from $800-1,000. Now add in transportation costs to get to and from work. The math suggestions a very lean Thanksgiving for these families.

Of the 48 million Americans who live in food-insecure homes, more than half are white and more than half live outside of cities. Food insecurity in the U.S. has jumped fivefold since the 1960s and 57 percent since just the late 1990s.

Of the 1.3 million residents of Hillsborough County, one out of six lives beneath the poverty level. For them, food runs out at least once per year. Food insecurity stalks even Tampa’s suburbs.

Were it not for free school breakfast and lunch programs, a significant number of Tampa Bay kids would not eat today. In total, 3,552,000 Floridians, or 18 percent of the state, relies on food assistance. If local children are to eat over this Thanksgiving break when schools are closed, they need a helping hand from you.

WOW hopes even more residents and businesses participate in the food drive’s matching campaign. Simply e-mail WOW Publisher Chris Barrett at for information on how you can be a matching partner.

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.

Thanksgiving Box of Hope

1 frozen turkey
1 box of cereal (hot or cold)
2 cans of fruit
2 cans of yams
2 bags or boxes of stuffing mix
1 loaf of fresh bread
4 cans of vegetables
1 jar of peanut butter
2 bags or cans of black beans
1 bag of rice
2 cans or boxes of potatoes
2 cans of cranberry sauce
2 cans or packets of gravy
1 package of cookies or pastries
1 family box of flavored gelatin or pudding 

Who Is Matching Your Donation?

Josh Butts of Cornerstone Insurance: 1 additional turkey for every 3 donated turkeys

The Wood Team/Smith & Associates: 1 can for every Westchase home that participates

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Maria Aranda: 1 can for every donated turkey

Dr. Christine Armstrong of Children’s Medical Center of Westchase: 1 can for every donated turkey

Maria Kletchka of Keller Williams Tampa Properties: 50 cents for every home participating

Dianna McHugh and Andrew Kelly of Mathnasium: 1 turkey for every 100 resident-donated turkeys donated (up to 4 turkeys) and 1 can for every 25 homes participated (up to 150 cans).

By Chris Barrett, Publisher; Cover Photo by James Broome Photography


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