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Metropolitan Ministries is behind on food donations after a tough year with COVID-19

Normally, the non-profit feeds about 26,000 families during the holiday season. This year, 50,000 families need their help.

TAMPA, Fla. — This year celebrating Thanksgiving may be a little tougher for some Bay Area families. With the job losses and health issues that have come with battling COVID-19, many families are in need of help this holiday season. 

"Last year and the total holiday season, we served 26,000, little over 26,000 families," said Justine Burke, the vice president of marketing for Metropolitan Ministries. "This year, we need to serve 50,000, because the need has doubled because of hardships caused by COVID."

With more need comes much more demand, but supplies have been hard to come by for a number of reasons.

Some are unable to donate goods because they themselves are in tougher financial situations. Donors are also having issues getting supplies because some grocery stores are limiting goods so that everyone has access to them. And some food drives, like those that take place in schools or offices, are not happening at all due to the pandemic. 

As a result, Metropolitan Ministries still needs a lot of food, only two weeks out from Thanksgiving. 

"So we have over 23,000 boxes that we need to get ready to have out by Thanksgiving," Burke said. "And as of last check, we have a little over 7,000 ready to go."

Many of these boxes will be going to new families, who have never reached out before. Burke estimates about 39 percent of families this year fall into that category.

Tavia Jackson, is a single mom to four kids, is one of those families. Her eldest daughter, Avia, has had five open-heart surgeries since birth. And this year, her daughter was diagnosed with liver cancer.

When Avia's health started to take a turn for the worse on March 27, Jackson knew she had to take her daughter to the hospital. When she called work to let them know, she was taken off the schedule. Just a little later, she lost her job completely.

But there is hope this holiday season.

"You know dealing with Metropolitan is a blessing. Because Avia, my baby you know she is not promised for every day but while she's here I'm trying to make it her best," Jackson said.

Metropolitan Ministries hopes that anyone who can help, will.

"It sounds, it's just so massive. But if you think I can help one family, what can I do to help one family and everybody could just help one family, then we're pretty sure that we'll be able to meet the need," Burke said.

And for the families receiving the help, like the Jackson's, the generosity is greatly appreciated. 

"Last week, I found out that her tumors was getting a little bigger. So just to have the help from anyone is grateful," Jackson said.

Metropolitan Ministries has drop off locations for food donations around the Tampa Bay area. They also have other ways you can help out, by hosting a drive of your own or donating digitally. 

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