As the world hurtles through an unprecedented time of uncertainty, in the midst of a global pandemic, random acts of kindness and connectedness abound. Neighbors, friends and strangers — everyday heroes — are making a difference in the world and the lives of people near and far.
In some cases it’s organizations with a mission to help, like the Ryan Nece Foundation. Established in 2006 by former NFL linebacker Ryan Nece, the foundation focuses its efforts on opportunities for teens to embrace giving through volunteerism and inspirational leadership programs. In response to the current crisis the foundation, in partnership with National Christian Foundation Tampa Bay, is distributing more than 15,000 masks to health care workers and other front-line workers throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.
In other cases, every day Americans are stepping up. Penny Foote works at an in-home daycare in Clearwater. But she wanted to contribute to the COVID-19 relief effort so on March 20 she created The Mask Project Tampa Bay to mobilize mask-making for health care workers, nursing homes and first responders. A month later she has dozens of volunteers, a Facebook page with more than 4,600 members and has helped make, and distribute, more than 20,000 masks throughout the Tampa Bay region. She calls the experience “mind-blowing” with people coming out of the woodwork to donate money, fabric, time or ideas.
To help keep others safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Karla and Andreas Dettlaff Family Foundation purchased $5,000 worth of hand sanitizing spray which they, in turn, donated to the City of Tampa.
Food banks are in high demand through this crisis and there’s been an outpouring of support to help them meet their needs. The owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Glazer family, have donated 5 million meals to Feeding Tampa Bay to help local families. Publix, Ashley Home Stores, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Tampa Bay Rays have also donated to Feeding Tampa Bay. So too has the newest Buccaneer Tom Brady and his wife, Giselle Bundchen.
Medical professionals, who are putting their own lives at risk and working long hours to help the sick, can get a free small coffee at Kahwa Coffee Roasters locations.
Mission BBQ donated some of their choice meals to a North Tampa fire station and Catering By the Family delivered food to the fire department in West Tampa and a Tampa police station. Taco Bus, in partnership with Express Beverage, donated meals to the District 2 Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Just as they have received, first responders are also giving. When a line for a Metropolitan Ministries food bank stretched one-mile long, Tampa Police officers showed up to help with distribution. While the line to offer financial help to Metropolitan Ministries has included Jeff and Penny Vinik, who donated $1,000,000 through their foundation, to feed local residents. Local stars like former Buccaneers Quarterback Jameis Winston and Titus O’Neil have also pitched in donating another $50,000 to the nonprofit.
The unemployment numbers, through the COVID-19 crisis, have been staggering and the restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit. Many in that line of work are rallying to help their own.
The past five weeks, Gratzzi Italian Grille in St. Petersburg, has been offering free lunch to hospitality and food service personnel who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
In Waterset, a local master-planned community by Newland in Apollo Beach, residents came together for a contactless food drive for Feeding Tampa Bay. Waterset’s mascot, Manny the Manatee, collected non-perishable donations from resident’s driveways while spreading safe-at-home cheer to all ages. During this one-day food drive, Waterset‘s residents raised nearly 1,000 meals for those in need in the Tampa Bay area.
With schools closed parents, teachers and students are relying on technology to keep classes going.
Spectrum, for 60 days beginning on March 16, is offering free access to internet and WiFi for 60-days for new Pre-K to 12, college student and teacher households who don’t currently have internet or WiFi service. The company also committed to not terminate service, or charge late fees, for customers struggling to pay their bills due to difficult economic circumstances related to the pandemic.
The generosity and community spirit from all corners of Tampa Bay are truly inspiring. And, it’s a testament to the fact that even though we’re safer at home, we’re still connected and together #HelpingOurCity #ElevateTampa.
Aakash Patel is the founder and president of Elevate, a strategic business consulting firm providing public relations, community relations, targeted networking and social media. Appointed by the governor, Patel currently serves as the board chairman of The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. Additionally, Patel is involved with The University of Tampa, Centre Club Tampa Board of Governors, Gasparilla Film, Tampa Economic Development Corporation, TiE Tampa Bay, Synapse Board of Directors, and the Superbowl LV Host Committee. The 2019 Indo-US Chamber Businessman of the Year, Patel is a graduate of Florida State University and he previously worked as an editorial assistant at the Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau.