By B.C. Manion
As the holiday season approaches, Keystone Community Church in Lutz and Heritage Ford in Wesley Chapel are stepping forward to help others in need.
Keystone Community Church will hold its third annual Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Collection Tent and Heritage Ford is having its first Boxes of Hope campaign.
Both efforts will benefit Metropolitan Ministries of Pasco County, which in turn will help families in need at the holidays.
Heritage Ford, at 28739 SR 54 W., has already begun accepting food donations in its Boxes of Hope campaign.
The goal is to collect enough food to provide Thanksgiving meals for 50 local families, said Jennifer Cofini, community relations manager for the car dealership.
“If we get more, that’s great,” Cofini said. “I figured 50 (food boxes) was a good place to start,” she said.
The dealership will contribute a turkey for every box of food it collects, Cofini said.
Those wishing to help can bring their food donations to the dealership’s showroom.
Items that are needed include canned fruits and vegetables, stuffing, mix, rice, beans, canned yams, gravy mix, cookies and Jello pudding.
Those contributing items also are invited to enter a drawing for a free deluxe vehicle detail valued at $149.95, Cofini said. It’s the dealership’s way of showing appreciation to the community for taking part in the food drive, she said.
The dealership’s food drive began on Oct. 26 and runs through Friday, Nov. 18. Contributors are invited to drop by the dealership’s showroom with their donations anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Cofini said.
While Heritage Ford’s food drive is well under way, Keystone Community Church is just gearing up for its third annual Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Collection Tent.
The church will kick off its annual effort by having a Holiday of Hope Tent Blessing at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11.
Those attending are asked to bring a canned food item to donate, representing their “first fruits,” which refers to terminology used in the Bible.
The event will be at the church, 21010 SR 54 in Lutz, near the intersection of US 41 and SR 54.
The donation tent will begin operation on Nov. 12 and will receive donations through Nov. 22. It will reopen on Dec. 10 and remain open through Dec. 21 to accept additional contributions for Christmas.
Florida Blood Services will be on site during the opening day, so those wishing to donate blood will be able to do so.
Angela Hobson, the church’s outreach coordinator, said the intersection of US 41 and SR 54 is an ideal spot to gather donations because it is in such a central location in Pasco County.
She said the founders of Keystone Community Church have had a longstanding relationship with Metropolitan Ministries.
When the church was established at such a prime location, it decided it wanted to do its part to help Metropolitan Ministries of Pasco County — formerly known as Joining Hands Community Mission, Hobson said.
The church wants to do what Metropolitan Ministries in downtown Tampa does, at a smaller scale, Hobson said.
“We’ve scheduled dates throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays” to collect donations of food and new toys, Hobson said.
After the church collects the items, it delivers them to Metropolitan Ministries, which then distributes the items to families in need.
Hobson said she’s trying to get additional churches and community organizations to help out by providing volunteers to help at the collection site.
First United Methodist Church of Lutz has stepped up, Hobson said. Their volunteers are going to cover a day at the collection tent.
Middle school and high school students that need to earn community service hours can pitch in, and so can community groups, the outreach coordinator said. The church is not encouraging groups of young children to help because the site is in a high-traffic area and they don’t want to take any chances of anyone getting hurt, Hobson said.
Contributors are encouraged to donate canned fruits and vegetables, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, cereal and other nonperishable items. Frozen turkeys are also welcome because the church has freezers it can use to store them, Hobson said.
The church is also collecting gift items, especially gifts for teenagers. Items that are in high demand include board games, jewelry, makeup, hair accessories, footballs, basketballs, DVD and CD players, journals, sketchbooks and gift cards.
New items for infants also are in great need, Hobson said.