It started as a simple idea by Bucs right guard Alex Cappa. Thousands of people in the Tampa Bay area are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are small business owners who have seen their restaurant or bar shutter its doors or severely limit its service with social distancing measures in place. Others have lost jobs or the income entirely and need some help putting food on the table.
"I wanted to help support local business with local owners, while at the same time getting food to people who need it," Cappa said simply. "I would encourage other people who can afford it to do the same, at any scale."
Whether Cappa realized it or not, he started something with that thought. On his own, Cappa purchased meals from Tour de Pizza in St. Pete and donated them to Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa. Now, after getting wind of it, teammates like Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Ryan Jensen, Cameron Brate, Lavonte David and O.J. Howard will be buying dinner each week to be delivered from a local restaurant to the Metropolitan Ministries.
"It's just so cool what these guys are doing," said Jackie Davis, Risk and Compliance Manager for Metropolitan Ministries, who helped coordinate the effort. "These are just normal guys. They're thankful for what they have and what they're able to do and they just want to help. When they step up to the plate my heart just goes out, it's so rewarding to have these guys embrace us."
Metro Ministries helps homeless and at-risk families, 32,000 people in all, with varying degrees of need throughout the Tampa Bay region. The effect of donating dinner once a week to the ministry campus reaches further than just helping feed those families and residents. It also helps stretch the budget with funds originally allocated to dinners now able to go towards another of the many efforts the organization is putting forth at this time. It even helps families to gain a sense of normalcy and makes the ministry campus feel more like home, says Davis.
Thursday night, it's Marpet's turn to bring food in. The left guard chose Noble Crust in St. Petersburg, a popular pizza and Italian spot that is offering carryout. Brate chose his personal favorite, Fresh Kitchen, which is part of the CRG restaurant group and offers healthy bowls and a wide range of dietary options. And for any of those players that weren't sure which restaurants could use the help the most, Davis and her colleagues at Metro Ministries were happy to help with suggestions.
Helping is contagious, too. Upon hearing about the initiative, General Manager Jason Licht got on the phone with Michael Stewart of the 717 restaurant in South Tampa about donating meals to healthcare workers, 500 in all, according to the Tampa Bay Times. A few minutes later, Head Coach Bruce Arians called Stewart himself, offering to match Licht's donation.