Thanksgiving Food Drive Returns Nov. 20

What began as a service project has grown into one of the largest community food drives in Tampa Bay.

In 2008, Westchase resident Ben Stein created the neighborhood-wide food drive for his Eagle Scout Project. The following year, building on the foundation set by Stein, the WOW agreed to carry on the drive, in conjunction with Metropolitan Ministries. Former WOW Publisher Chris Barrett took the lead and with the generous support of so many Westchase neighbors, the drive steadily grew year after year. In 2017, Barrett worked to expand the drive to include other generous communities outside of Westchase. Today, in addition to Westchase, the drive covers Westchester, Windsor Place, Mandolin, Highland Park, Waterchase, West Hampton, Westwood Lakes and Fawn Ridge.

While there may be a new publisher at the helm of the WOW, rest assured the food drive will continue. In fact, we are looking to make this year’s drive the biggest one yet, not because we are looking for bragging rights, but because the need has never been greater.

Why the food drive matters

Between the pandemic, rising inflation and the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian, food banks like those run by Metropolitan Ministries are struggling to keep food on their shelves.

We’ve all been faced with sticker shock at the grocery store and gas pump, and we’ve watched in disbelief as the cost of housing has skyrocketed. For those living paycheck to paycheck, the effects of these rising prices are devastating, and the holidays are a particularly vulnerable time for these families.

That is where we come in.

Community food drives like ours are imperative to Metropolitan Ministries’ mission to deliver nutritious essentials to families in need. “The Sunday before Thanksgiving is my favorite day because that’s when the World of Westchase shows up with their incredible food drive effort to help families in need,” said Tim Marks, President and CEO of Metropolitan Ministries. “It’s by far the largest food drive done on behalf of Metropolitan Ministries each year. You are all difference makers, and we are so grateful for your example of servant leadership for the last 15 years.”

Last year, thanks to your efforts WOW’s annual food drive broke yet another record, amassing a total of 47,905 pounds of food, 811 turkeys and 3 hams. In addition, over $3,000 was collected thanks to the drive’s business matchers and other pledges to benefit Metropolitan Ministries.

That was with approximately 1,500 homes across Westchase and our Northwest neighborhoods participating.

Imagine what we could achieve with even more households on board.

This year, we encourage you not only to participate, but also to help us spread the word! It could result in a block party for you and your neighbors. Two neighborhoods with the highest percentage of homes donating frozen turkeys will win $250 for a holiday block party. One prize will be offered in Westchase and another in our Northwest neighborhoods.

Last year, Keswick Forest took the Westchase prize and Highland Park dominated in the Northwest. Why not rally your neighborhood to vie for top prize?

How to take part in the drive

We’ve made it easy to be a part of this amazing drive. To join the community effort, simply purchase as many of the food items as you are able from the shopping list running with this article and place them in front of your homes, either out on your driveway or near your mailbox, at 1 p.m. on Sun, Nov. 20. (Please do not leave donations in alleys; these are not driven by our volunteers.) 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. WOW’s generous food drive volunteers will then drive through the neighborhoods on Nov. 20 to collect your donations. It’s easy!

Whether you can afford only a few cans or an entire meal, your donations matter. All of the items donated are organized and packed into Boxes of Hope that will make a world of difference to families in need this holiday season. If you are donating from your pantry, please check expiration dates before placing items out for donation.

The weekend prior to the drive, volunteers will leave a reminder flyer with the shopping list at your door so you can take it to the supermarket with you. You’ll also find a copy on the back of the insert wrapper in this issue of the WOW. And you can download the list here.

If you’re out of town on Sun, Nov. 20, you can still participate. You can drop donations off early at 10004 Bridgeton Dr. in The Bridges. You can leave donations with a neighbor to set out on your driveway on Nov. 20. Or you can drop donations at the Westchase Recreation Center at 9791 Westchase Dr. during business hours: Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sat, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. If dropping off early, please include a note with your address and subdivision name so that your neighborhood is one step closer to earning that block party! And please don’t drop off turkeys early, as there is no freezer space to keep them frozen.

How to volunteer

We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who have already stepped once again this year. It truly takes so many hands to collect donations and then organize them in a matter of hours to ensure the Boxes of Hope can be distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

It is an amazing site to see scout troops and sports teams, honor society students and residents of all ages from across Westchase and our Northwest neighborhoods working together for a common goal. All are welcome to join. If you are interested in volunteering with the drive, simply e-mail WOW Editor Karen Ring at editor@westchasewow.com.

Give your neighborhood a challenge

Every year, a number of local businesses and families issue challenge matches to encourage even more families to participate. At the time this issue went to press, the following businesses had stepped up to encourage your participation in the drive in generous ways:

Peter Prince of Royal Financial: one can of food for every 10 participating homes (up to $500).

Dr. B. Ngoc Pham, MD with Tre Medspa and Tre Nail Lounge: 50 cents for every donated turkey (up to $600).

Nancy & Doug Wood, The Wood Team—Smith & Associates Real Estate: $1 per participating home up to $1,600.

Eric & Jennifer Anderson with Keller Williams Tampa Properties: They have issued a Castleford-specific challenge – $10 for every turkey donated by residents of Castleford!

Anonymous Bridges family and their out-of-town relatives: Both couples will match every Turkey donated with a .50 donation to Metropolitan Ministries. (Up to $150 per couple.)

If your business or family would like to issue a challenge to our community, please email WOW Editor Karen Ring at editor@westchasewow.com.

Whether you are donating a few cans or a whole meal, serving as a neighborhood captain, working a sorting station or issuing a challenge match, every little bit helps to make this drive a success, and in turn provide families in need a bit of hope this holiday season.

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