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‘Tis the season to give back

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks and honoring the tradition of family fun and holiday feasts.

Sara Ames, a college student, says t she goes home not just to see her family but to help the community and spread joy to the less fortunate.

“When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of helping others. I like to volunteer as much as I can and I love to watch people’s expressions when I serve them the Thanksgiving food,” Ames said.

Tampa has many places such as the Tampa Bay Dream Center at which students can volunteer. James Ryan, director of programming, said the center always needs volunteers.

“You can just show up. We do an event every Saturday, but this coming Saturday the event will be moved to Thanksgiving Day. It will be larger since it is on Thanksgiving.”

Ames has plans to attend the Thanksgiving event, which runs from 9 a.m. until noon.

“I can’t wait to help and play with the children there. This event opens my eyes to the real world and it makes me a better person,” Ames said.

Ryan said volunteers are required for serving food, giving away clothes, face painting, arts and crafts and to help organize games such as football and kickball with children.

“Everyone that comes has a vital part and the more people that come, the more people we can help,” Ryan said.

Usually the Dream Center holds block parties every Saturday. Ryan said volunteers are always welcome, even if it is not a holiday. “We serve food and entertain to the community,” Ryan said.

Ames has also volunteered with the Salvation Army, an experience she said she would always remember. The organization has enough volunteers for this Thanksgiving but is in need of volunteers for the Christmas holiday.

“We are looking for volunteers to help box foods so we can give away food for the families during the Christmas holiday,” said John Darby, director of programming for the Salvation Army.

Darby said students can get a group of friends together, or even a fraternity or sorority, and contact Moria Hinson at (813) 226-0055, and the Salvation Army will arrange a convenient time frame for them to come in and volunteer. Another volunteer option for students is Metropolitan Ministries.

Lesa Weikel, coordinator of community relations, said, “We organize food drives for clubs, and we still do it for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, as well.”

Weikel said they have enough volunteers for the Thanksgiving dinner but are in need of items for the dinner and for the families to take home with them. Suitable items include gravy, cranberry sauce, cake mixes, Jell-O and turkeys.

“We still will be serving families for Christmas and we will use volunteers for gift wrapping at a couple of the Borders book stores,” Weikel said.

Amy Simon, Volunteer USF Coordinator, said, people who want to volunteer at Metropolitan Ministries should know Volunteer USF is going December 2nd. They are meeting at USF at 2:30p.m. and will be back at 5:30 p.m.

Simon said, “We go all the time. We’re helping out for the holidays and anyone can come.”

A holiday tent will be set up and the meal will be served from 8 a.m.-8p.m. on the 2100 block of North Florida Avenue. The new donation center is located at Saint James United Methodist Church on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. They are also accepting donations there, Weikel said.

“I feel that volunteering during the holidays not only gives to others, but I feel that they are giving to me, as well,” Ames said.

Below is a list of volunteer sites in the Tampa bay area that will be holding Thanksgiving meals. Contact them for further details.