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
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.