More than a competition

Some students made houses. Some built miniature replicas of Raymond James Stadium. And some made the USF Bulls logo. But all of the more than 10,000 pounds of canned goods were collected for a single cause.

As a USF ambassador, sophomore Robert Lara volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa last month to clean the facility and distribute canned goods to homeless people.

His team, the “Bull-istic Brigade,” used 2,109 canned goods to make a naval battleship.

“It feels really good, to be honest with you … I saw where it actually goes to and why it’s so important,” said Lara, who is double majoring in psychology and biomedical sciences.

The “Bull-istic Brigade” was one of 16 teams participating in the sixth annual Charit-A-Bull Food Drive in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) on Monday.

This year, Metropolitan Ministries will use the 10,145 pounds of canned goods collected to help feed 29,000 disadvantaged families in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, said Ana Maria Mendez, community relations manager for Metropolitan Ministries.

The cans will be used to fill a “Box of Hope” containing a turkey or gift certificate, cereal and dessert mixes, among other things.

On Thursday, families can visit the ministry to pick up a box or shop at the “Metro Market,” housed in a 35,000-square-foot tent, to choose their own items, Mendez said.

“We’ve seen the changing face of homelessness,” she said. “Some were on the donating list last year and now are coming to get service. It’s definitely a humbling experience.”

Members of Delta Chi, Sigma Delta Tau and Kappa Delta made up the 20-person “Bull-istic Brigade.”

“There’s a difference in just sitting there and saying, ‘oh yeah I donate,’ and then actually being there where you donate to … It’s like an unexplainable experience,” Lara said. “You can’t really explain what it’s like to be on a rollercoaster until you’ve actually gone on it.”

USF student Kathryn Galloway said the team has been collecting cans for a couple of weeks. They started planning their design Sunday night.

Teams had to construct their canned-goods sculptures within a 6 feet by 8 feet blue tarp, said Beatriz Drago, director of public relations for Homecoming.

A 140-can birdcage with words “Don’t fly south for the winter” and a cardinal hanging inside was made by students from a University Experience class.

A component of the class requires students to participate in a charity function, said Jennifer Hernandez, the class’ professor and assistant director of the MSC.

Hernandez said the activity became a lesson.

“We talked about service and what the class’ view of homelessness was,” she said. “It’s not just a person on the street. It could be a person staying in a friend’s apartment.”

Jackie Muniz, a student in the class, said knowing that the cans will feed someone this holiday season makes it important.

“Not everyone gets to enjoy Thanksgiving,” said Muniz, a freshman majoring in nursing. “We’re very privileged.”

Metropolitan Ministries hopes to collect 1.6 million pounds of canned goods, Mendez said.

For now, the ministry has enough for the first day of distribution and up until Thanksgiving.

“We’ll be cutting it pretty close, Mendez said.

Metropolitan Ministries is accepting donations at 2002 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa.