Give thanks

“To express gratitude is to put into words a beautiful sense of wholeness. Recognizing the people, the experiences, and the extraordinary gifts of life which feed our souls.” 

Life is empty when there is no purpose. Everyday I ask myself what I’d like to accomplish that day to improve some aspect of life. 

Whether it’s a small task, like routine chores to help make our house a home, or a significant task, like giving  my time to improve the lives of others, I try to assign meaning to everything I do. It may not make sense to you, but it’s how I live. 

I know that life can be cut short. Therefore I will continue to live a meaningful life. These day to day experiences make me who I am. They fill my mind with memories and moments that I will cherish until I can no longer remember them, and hopefully make a difference in the lives of those I interact with. 

For the week of Thanksgiving, I got an opportunity to give back to my community in two ways. On Saturday, I rounded my chicas together for an afternoon preparing and cooking dinner for the families currently residing at the Ronald McDonald House. Read more about our experiences volunteering at the House here.

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On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I was invited by Denise, the organizer of The Tampa Bay Bloggers, for a day of giving back at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent in Tampa. I had never volunteered for MM before, so I was excited to see what it was all about. I was able to bring some guests with me to help out for the 4 hour shift. Volunteering is always, ALWAYS better with friends ;)

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The Metropolitan Ministries tent is located at 400 West. Palm Avenue in Tampa (behind Blake High School near the Hillsborough River). It is set up seasonally, to aide families during the holiday season. Additionally, there are donation tents set up in Largo and Holiday. However, MM accepts donations and assists families and individuals in need all throughout the year, not just during the holiday season! Read more about their mission and services here.  

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We spent our shift directly working with the clients receiving services at MM. When clients qualify for assistance, they are able to come directly to the holiday tent to “shop”. We acted as personal shoppers for the clients, and it was such a rewarding experience getting to interact with them on a one-to-one level, instead of behind the scenes. Metropolitan Ministries is extremely organized, and has a seamless system paying attention to even the smallest details. The shopping area was divided into about 10 identical aisles and the volunteer would stand at the end of the aisle with a cart and a box, waiting for the client to be sent down to us. When they arrived, we’d guide them through their shopping experience, directing them to the different sections and telling them how many of each item they could choose. The quantity of the items they could choose depended on the size of their family.

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The shelves of each aisle were divided into sections: cereals, starches (rice, pasta, potatoes), stuffing, yams/pumpkin, canned vegetables, beans (dry and canned), canned fruit (including applesauce), cranberry, sweets and miscellaneous items. As they chose their items, we would bag them, then walk them to the area in the front of the tent to pickup either their turkey or chicken (individuals and couples received a whole chicken). Then we would return to our assigned aisle to meet another client and help them shop once again! IMAG3814

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I helped close to 20 clients during my shift. Some quietly shopped along, while others engaged in conversation with me. Some were nervous, some were teary, claiming they had always given before, but they just couldn’t this year. Some were embarrassed, hoping to not be seen by someone they knew. Some were pregnant, some were immigrants experiencing their first Thanksgiving. Although they were all very different, the one thing they had in common was the fact that they were grateful for the help they were receiving this year from Metropolitan Ministries. They were grateful for the kindness of the volunteers, and the generosity of their community.

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My experience at Metropolitan Ministries was such a rewarding one. I’ll be returning to volunteer some shifts before Christmas. If you’d like join me, please let me know! The tent will also be open for donations throughout the remaining holiday season. For more information on the drop off locations in the Bay area, click here.

In addition, here is a list to refer to regarding the items that are needed the most for the holiday season.

Shopping-List-2This year I’m thankful for so many things. I’m thankful for the experiences that mold and shape my own life.  I’m thankful for my family and friends who are always there for me to lend an ear or provide a laugh. I’m thankful for my career, and my education, for it has given me a way to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers each and every day. I’m thankful for my health and my strength. I’m thankful for our home and yes, even our cats. ;) I’m thankful for my parents, for they never let my brother and I do without; even when times were tough. I’m thankful to have 32 years of memories of my mother that forever live in my mind. And most of all, I’m thankful for Brian; my love and my best friend. The first person I see when I wake up in the morning and hear “I love you” from.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a happy Thanksgiving!

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How do you make life meaningful? What are you most thankful for this year?
Steph

PS- Read all about Christy’s experience volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries. :)

2 thoughts on “Give thanks

  1. Thanks again for the invite to MM. I’m sorry I didn’t really get to meet the blogger group properly since I showed up right at 11:30. I’m glad everyone else seemed to have a good experience there too. I’d definitely like to help out there again, and I’m planning on starting an MM food/gift drive at work. Also, thanks for the shout-out. :)

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