Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Working the Assembly Line

Buccaneer volunteers from the Student Advisory Board and the Cheerleading squad help Metropolitan Ministries assemble and distribute holiday food baskets

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SAB member Rachel Armstrong and Buccaneers Cheerleader Leigh Vollmer assemble holiday food baskets at Metropolitan Ministries

Over the course of the holiday season, hundreds of volunteers from local schools, churches and community groups take a break from their busy schedules to help out at the Metropolitan Ministries food tent.

On Wednesday, 17 members of the Buccaneers Student Advisory Board member, plus Cheerleaders Catherine Croake and Leigh Vollmer, donned green aprons and helped assemble holiday food baskets for the outreach organization.

There was plenty for the 17 Buc representatives to do. For the uninitiated, here's the scene each holiday season inside the Metropolitan Ministries food tent.

The inside of the tent resembles a highly productive assembly line, staffed by grinning volunteers. Donated goods pour in one end and leave the other in fully-assembled food boxes, brimming over with everything necessary for a large Thanksgiving feast.

Individuals or organizations donating food are greeted by the first set of volunteers, who help unload the food from their vehicles and weigh it in. Other helpers place the donated food into a large bin, where it is sorted in to smaller, categorized bins – green vegetables, canned fruit, stuffing, gravy, etc. by yet another group of volunteers. The sorted food is then taken to the assembly line and placed in front of more helpers. As the food baskets roll down the line, they are loaded with all the makings of a holiday meal – several kinds of vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, dinner rolls, fruit, rice, gravy, cereal and crackers.

Finally, the baskets are taken to the other side of the tent and distributed to those in need, along with a healthy-sized turkey.

During the course of the day, the Buccaneer volunteers participated in all of the tasks, helping to bring in the donations, sort them and deliver them to those that are in need.

"It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it," said SAB member Patrick Westlake. "It just feels really good to be able to help out those that are less fortunate."

That's what Metropolitan Ministries is all about, and it's why many volunteers come back year after year.

"This is my second year at Metropolitan Ministries," said Vollmer. "And it's my favorite charity that we work with, because you have the opportunity to interact with the people that are giving and the people that are receiving.

"It's a great feeling to see how much the Tampa Bay community really cares for one another."

This year, Metropolitan Ministries hopes to feed over 9,000 families during the holiday season, a feat that will require donations of more than 600,000 pounds of goods. With the help of many volunteers, and the generosity of the people in the Bay Area, it seems likely that Metropolitan Ministries will meet their goal.

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