Eat a box lunch Oct. 12 and feed a needy family

By PENNY FLETCHER

Chow down on an Executive Box Lunch of a turkey club with Gouda cheese, avocado and bacon, or a Black Forest ham and Brie and you’ll be helping to feed a needy family of four that can’t afford a can of chicken noodle soup.

Besides the sandwiches, an Italian salad, fresh fruit and gourmet cookies will be inside each box that Inside the Box Café & Catering prepares and sells to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church for $1.97 each. They will be resold for $13 each, all the profit of which will go to charity, said Lori Bossman, who, along with her husband David, is working on the box-lunch project.

“It’s an idea of our Mission Committee,” said the Rev. Mark Salmon, pastor of the church. “It is always very active.”

The committee is led by Chairwoman Sally McLeish, who spoke at length about what it is trying to accomplish with its Box Lunch event on Sunday, Oct. 12, after each service.

“We could really use people from other churches and area communities to purchase tickets and get the lunches because every bit of the profit will go to Metropolitan Ministries,” she said.

The committee recently toured the ministry, located in Tampa, and members were both shocked and impressed by what they saw.

“It’s heartbreaking to see so many without anywhere to live, and without food or any of the things so many of us take for granted,” McLeish said.

But she and others from the church were encouraged to see the many programs Metropolitan Ministries has been able to help.

“So many have fallen on hard times,” said Lori Bossman. “Metropolitan Ministries is truly a miracle place.”

The group is hoping that the publication of this story in advance of the October event will challenge others in South County to give the church a call and volunteer to help in some way.

Metropolitan Ministries has a program to guide homeless families through to self-sufficiency by giving them housing, babysitting for work, and classes to teach re-entering a more normal type society than that in which they were living while on the streets.

But the waiting list is more than a year long for that program, and money is needed to expand it.

Right now they can house 94 families; have 83 children in their preschool and are in the process of adding more. They also have a partnership with a local elementary school for their children, kindergarten through fifth grade, to attend.

Metropolitan Ministries started out 40 years ago as a soup kitchen and has morphed into a whole new character — one that provides not only a safe place to sleep and good food but also clothing, classes and counseling of many kinds, said spokeswoman Gwen Harmon.

“We’ve recently doubled our onsite capacity for transitional housing to 100 families and 250 children who have a safe and dignified temporary home each day and night,” said Tim Marks, Metropolitan Ministries’ director, CEO and president. “The community can support our continuing efforts to become America’s most effective caregiver for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless, by donating food, hygiene supplies, financial contributions, and serving as volunteers.”

He said, “I want to encourage those who have not given or donated to us in the past to visit our campus, consider sponsoring a food drive and becoming a partner with us. It’s easy, just visit our website to book a drive, donate or sign up as a volunteer at www.metromin.org.”

Director of Advancement Mandy Cloninger was originally scheduled to speak at the Sun City Center event but Marks decided just last week to come himself.

The situation for many is dire, and Marks says he wants to encourage everyone he can to try to make a difference.

The figures provided by the Homeless Coalition for Hillsborough County are staggering. They say that in 2013 on any given night more than 7,336 persons are homeless, not counting those doubling-up with other families or living in temporary (even overnight) quarters.

That figure is down from 9,532 in 2007 because of Metropolitan Ministries and others who helped,  but the homeless population is way under-counted, Marks said.

Some reports say that there are more than 18,000 homeless in the tri-county area, giving Tampa Bay one of the highest homeless populations in the country.

Every year, 300 volunteers count them, but many homeless hide from the count, while others are just never found.

Statistics presented to the Governor and State Legislature in 2013 showed 69 percent were male, 31 percent female. Children accounted for 9 percent.
Of the total, 64 percent were disabled and 11 percent were military veterans.

Anyone wishing to donate or volunteer may contact the ministry at www.metromin.org or call 813-209-1264. The Ministry is located at 20002 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa.

Tickets for the box lunches may be purchased by calling St. Andrew Presbyterian Church at 813-634-1252 or going to the office there during the week at 1239 W. Del Webb Blvd. in Sun City Center.

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