RB Aaron Stecker joined several other Buccaneers Tuesday on a holiday food box 'assembly line' at the Metropolitan Ministries food tent
Tampa Bay Buccaneer players hear the message all the time, in good times and bad
Each man has a job. Pay attention to the details and everything else will work out. And Aaron Stecker knows his job.
His job is cake mix.
On Tuesday, the traditional players' day off in the National Football League, a group of Buccaneer players volunteered their time at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday food tent near downtown Tampa. As hundreds of volunteers from local schools, churches and community groups bustled around under the tent putting together the Ministries' famous holiday food baskets, Stecker and his teammates donned green aprons and joined the assembly line.
At one end, empty boxes were unfolded and stapled open, then placed on the line, where guard Randall McDaniel started the process by placing two cans of yams inside. The boxes moved down the line past running back Rabih Abdullah's beans and canned fruit, tight end Todd Yoder's canned corn, defensive end Ellis Wyms' Kit Kat bars, cornerback Corey Ivy's pudding and Jello mixes and a number of other stations. Former Buccaneer great Paul Gruber, who donates his time to Metropolitan Ministries every year, supervised the assembly line.
Near the end was Stecker with his cake mixes.
"I'm making sure they get a cake, maybe some biscuits," said the Bucs' running back. "I'm just doing my job and that's my job right now."
Truth be told, it didn't seem much like work to Stecker, an active Buc volunteer who especially enjoyed the opportunity to help out families during the holidays. He remembers others helping his family in Wisconsin in the same way.
"This is great," said Stecker. "It's Thanksgiving and we want to help people. There are a lot of people out there in unfortunate situations who don't have the opportunities to get the necessities to have a good Thanksgiving. The turkey, the stuffing, the gravy – sometimes people can't afford that. This is a way for them to have a good Thanksgiving, by coming down here.
"Myself, I wasn't always fortunate enough to have all of those things. There's nothing wrong with a handout in a situation like that. This is a situation where I could come down here and help some other people out."
Quite a few people will be helped out by the efforts of Metropolitan Ministries and its volunteers. The holiday food tent, located at 2020 North Florida Avenue in Tampa, is like a well-organized and cheerful factory floor, with donated goods pouring in one end and coming out the other in fully-assembled and brimming-over food boxes, complete with everything necessary for a large Thanksgiving feast. Metropolitan Ministries hopes to feed up to 9,000 families this holiday season, a feat that will require donations in the neighborhood of 600,000 pounds of goods.
"The goal is to get enough food in here so that every family tomorrow will have a food box in preparation for Thanksgiving day," said Ministries President Morris Hintzman. "We're doing better, but we have a long way to go. We probably need another 100,000 pounds, but I'm just trusting the community will buckle down and people will go out and buy something and bring it here."
The food tent accepted donations on Tuesday evening until 8:00 p.m., with Buc players pitching in from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. The tent will also be accepting donations from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, with Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders and members of the Bucs' Student Advisory Board helping out.
In addition to the can-lifting muscle supplied by the NFLers on Tuesday, the lift in spirits their presence provided the other volunteers was appreciated by Hintzman.
"They bring a sense of enthusiasm for the rest of the volunteers," he said. "Everybody likes to be around our favorite football team. I think it's just a measure of inspiration, and also it tells them that there's another side to football players – their heart and willingness to serve."