Tampa, Florida -- The clock had yet to hit 5 a.m. and already, the kitchen was buzzing at Meals on Wheels Tampa Tuesday morning.
The organization prepares as many as 1,200 meals every day for homebound seniors in the community. This is a busier week than usual as staff prepare more than today's menu of Swedish meatballs and pasta, but a Thanksgiving meal for the men and women they serve.
The Thanksgiving meals will be frozen and delivered to the homes tomorrow along with the day's meal, since Meals on Wheels will close for the holiday.
The very special delivery by volunteers is more than just a healthy meal for the people served by the organization, it's the visit and face time that makes all the difference in the lives of our community's homebound seniors.
"We take for granted all the time our family and friends and the people we see everyday, a lot of times people forget about the homebound, not intentionally, but they're unseen, they're behind closed doors," said Stephen King, executive director of Meals on Wheels Tampa.
Meals on Wheels Tampa will now be able to serve even more people with the help of Sweetbay Supermarket which is donating $50,000 to the organization.
This will allow Meals on Wheels Tampa to serve an additional 10,400 meals and expand services in the East Tampa and University areas.
The money has also allowed Meals on Wheels Tampa to purchase a new delivery van.
Sweetbay has put a more emphasized focus on fighting hunger over the last two years as the economy declined and more families found themselves struggling to put food on the table.
Organizations like Feeding America and Meals on Wheels help the supermarket reach out to people who may otherwise not get help.
"There's 700,000 people in the Bay area that don't know where their next meal is coming from so this donation to Meals on Wheels, organizations like Meals on Wheels, helps to continue to fight hunger in this community," said Nicole LeBeau, spokeswoman for Sweetbay. Sweetbay is donating more than money, but their time by encouraging employees to volunteer with Meals on Wheels.
While additional food is a big boost for Meals on Wheels, its volunteers are the heart and soul of the organization. There are about 500 volunteers with Meals on Wheels Tampa who serve about once a week, but the organization is always looking for more volunteers.
There are 65 routes that take about an hour to an hour and a half to complete.
If you are interested in helping or would like to make a donation, you can learn more at mowtampa.org.
If you need help or know someone who needs help, call Meals on Wheels Tampa at 813-238-8410 or log onto mowtampa.org.