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Updated Nov. 18 - Pinellas County shares the holiday spiritFront Page - Tampa Bay Newspapers
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Updated Nov. 18
Pinellas County shares the holiday spirit
Coming together to make the holidays bright
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Every day there are people who go hungry in Pinellas. The sick, the lonely and the desperate need someone to care. Holidays are an especially difficult time for the poorest of the poor.

Fortunately, the holiday spirit burns bright in Tampa Bay. People from all lifestyles come together year after year to bring joy and hope to those in need. The sharing traditionally starts around Thanksgiving and continues through the New Year.

Share the Spirit serves as a clearinghouse of information received from businesses, churches and organizations who are working to make the holidays a good time for all. To add to this list, send an email to


• Holiday food distribution
Sen. Jack Latvala is partnering with Farm Share to distribute free fresh Florida produce to citizens in need on Friday, Nov. 22, at three locations. This is the 11th year the senator has sponsored holiday food distributions. Free produce will be available at all three locations while supplies last.

The first distribution is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center, 1108 North MLK Jr. Blvd in Clearwater. The second distribution is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the headquarters of Citizens Alliance for Progress, 401 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Tarpon Springs. The third distribution is from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Highpoint Neighborhood Family Center, 5812 150th Ave N in Clearwater.

Farm Share is a non-profit organization dedicated to the distribution of nutritious foods to those in need. It serves as a link between farmers with surplus produce and social service agencies in Florida and the southeastern United States. For more information, call Sen. Latvala's office at 793-2797.

• Volunteers needed
ST. PETERSBURG - The staff of the Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission is seeking volunteers to help serve a pre-Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings to the residents of Arlington Arbor, 1035 Arlington Ave. N., St. Petersburg. The event will take place Friday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The mission’s Happy Truck will be on site providing live music and face painting. The theme will be “clowning around” and children are welcome to attend. For information, call 545-8282.

• Food and toy drive
ST. PETERSBURG - The People That Love Church and Mission, 817 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg, has started its annual drive for assistance for the winter holiday season. Basic needs are 10 to 12 pounds turkeys, canned and non-perishable foods, new toys for children of all ages, cold weather clothing, blankets and hygiene items. Financial assistance is always in need. Donations can be brought to the mission 24/7. Financial gifts should be mailed to 817 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. For a list of needs, visit www.p­eople­thatl­ove.c­om or call Jeff Poresky at 727-480-2699.

The mission will provide take home turkey dinners to registered families beginning at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25. Families will receive a free turkey and sides that can be cooked at home. Families in need can register through Friday, Nov. 22, Monday through Friday, beginning at 10:45 a.m., at 817 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

A Thanksgiving buffet will be served Thursday, Nov. 28, 3:30 p.m. The free traditional home-cooked meal is available to anyone in need.

• Thanksgiving Day of Caring
The Salvation Army needs 40 volunteers for the Thanksgiving Day of Caring, Nov. 28. Come help prepare, set-up, serve and clean up after the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Partake in a hot meal with others at Thanksgiving. Meal times are 2 to 4 p.m. for our residents and the community. For more information, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332, email or visit www.s­astpe­te.or­g.

• Fall harvest diaper drive
DUNEDIN - Here We Grow Foundation Inc. is accepting donations Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for its diaper bank at 1171 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Needed items include diapers, children’s underwear, pull-ups, baby wipes, diaper rash cream and other items. Call 1-888-958-2788 or email

• Thanksgiving food drive
DUNEDIN - Here We Grow Foundation Inc. is seeking donations of items that will make great additions to Thanksgiving dinner for needy families. Donations will be accepted through Nov. 22. Thanksgiving blankets will be distributed to families Nov. 25-27. Donations can be taken to 1171 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Call 1-888-958-2788 or email

• Food and toy drive
PALM HARBOR – The Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce has begun its food and toy drive for the holidays. The beneficiary will be FEAST – The Palm Harbor area food pantry. Residents are asked to bring nonperishable food items and new toys to the chamber office, 1151 Nebraska Ave. The collection for Thanksgiving will go through Nov. 22. The collection for Christmas runs from Dec. 2 through 23.

• Food drive
CLEARWATER - Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour co-ed fitness club, located in the LaBelle Plaza at 1595 S Highland Ave, Clearwater, is collecting canned food during the month of November to donate to the RCS food pantry.

“The goal of this event is to help RCS maintain their inventory levels to ensure that they can serve everyone who comes to their doors equally during the busy holiday season,” said Maggie Loving, owner of the Anytime Fitness and organizer of the event. “By involving our members, we show our united concern for the community that supports us. The importance of giving back is vital, and it is rewarding to make a difference for those faced with difficult times.”

To participate in the food drive, bring donations the gym. As an added incentive, Loving is offering a free Anytime Fitness 14 day pass to each person who drops off food. Anyone who joins the gym during the month of November can bring in 10 cans of food and receive $100 credit towards the enrollment fee or $100 off a one year paid in full membership. The food drive will run through Nov. 30. For membership information, call Anytime Fitness at 727-330-7664 or visit www.a­nytim­efitn­ess.c­om.

• Food drive volunteers
Salvation Army need volunteers for the Pinellas County Schools Food Drive. The need is for donated trucks, drivers and loaders to pick up and unload food from schools. Pick-ups are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov 18-22 and Dec 2-6. For more information, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332, email or visit www.s­astpe­te.or­g.

• Oldsmar Cares food drive
OLDSMAR Members of Oldsmar Cares have begun their fourth annual Thanksgiving Bounty, a food drive for families that live in zip code 34677. In 2010, 30 “Bounty boxes” were provided to Oldsmar families. Last year, the number in need grew to 72 with more anticipated for 2013. The day of the giveaway is Tuesday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m. to noon. Oldsmar Cares needs many volunteers to pack up the boxes and help customers load them into vehicles. For more information, call 813-415-7373 or stop by Oldsmar Cares office at 163 State Road 580 W.

• Thanksgiving food distribution
TARPON SPRINGS - Tarpon Springs Shepherd Center (TSSC), through generous donations from Greater Tarpon Springs and northern Pinellas individuals and businesses and in partnership with the Salvation Army, will be distributing 1,000 turkey dinners and “all the fixings” to needy families through its signature program Project T.H.A.N.K.S. Hundreds of people are expected to line up Monday, Nov. 25, and Tuesday, Nov. 26, between noon and 3 p.m. at TSSC’s Food Pantry and Thrift Store,780 S. Pinellas Tarpon Springs, to trade in their registration coupons for free turkeys and bags of groceries to complete a Thanksgiving dinner.

Last year, 1,200 turkeys were distributed in total for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, TSSC will be distributing 1,000 turkeys at Thanksgiving and another 1,000 at Christmastime.

The bags will be filled with more groceries than previous years to provide for the increase in size of families in need TSSC is seeing through its community outreach services. In addition to the turkey, a dozen eggs, butter, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, rice, stuffing mix, muffin mix, jar of mayonnaise, dessert mix, and candy will round out the items in the bags.

Preparation for filling the thousand-plus bags begins Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Food Pantry. TSSC staff will be joined by a crowd of volunteers, many who participate in this act of kindness year after year. Staff and volunteers will be on hand again on Nov. 25 and 26 to assist families. Call 727-939-1400 or visit tssco­nline­.org.

Food drives

• Holiday food drive
ST. PETERSBURG - Pasadena Presbyterian is having a holiday food drive in November and December to benefit the food distribution center that serves more than120 families twice a month with groceries. Donations of non-perishable food such as canned or boxed foods and grocery store gift cards for turkeys are being accepted at a collection unit on church property at 100 Pasadena Ave, N., St. Petersburg, weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. Call 388-4339 or visit www.p­asade­napc.­com. Suggested donations include soup, chili, stew, macaroni and cheese, ravioli, canned beans, pasta, rice, noddles, canned tuna, chicken or salmon, canned tomatoes, canned vegetables, canned fruit, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, peanut butter and jelly. Donations of seasonal foods also are needed, including cranberry sauce, stuffing, cake mix, frosting, instant potatoes or gravy mix. Grocery gift certificates are appreciated.

• Food for Fines
OLDSMAR – The Oldsmar Public Library will waive late book fines through Dec. 21 for persons who bring a non-perishable, unexpired food item during normal business hours during the annual Food for Fines food drive. All donations received will be distributed to Oldsmar Cares to be given to needy area residents. Each donated item equals up to a $1 credit to the late feel fine. Lost or damaged book fees are not applicable. For more information, contact the Oldsmar Public Library at 813-749-1178.

• Food for Fines
CLEARWATER - All Clearwater Public Library branches are offering an amnesty period for overdue materials in exchange for donation of non-perishable foods. The offer is valid from Monday, Nov. 18 through close of business Friday, Dec. 20.La­st year the program netted literally tons of food and goods for the Religious Community Services Food Bank. Anyone who has fines due may bring canned goods or non-perishable food items to any Clearwater library branch and present them at the circulation desk with the overdue materials if available. Staff will waive any fines due and the donated food will go toward a holiday charity food drive. For more information, call 562-4970 or visit www.m­yclea­rwate­­/cpl.

Food and toy drives

• Food and toy drive
PALM HARBOR – The Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce has begun its food and toy drive for the holidays. The beneficiary will be FEAST – The Palm Harbor area food pantry. Residents are asked to bring nonperishable food items and new toys to the chamber office, 1151 Nebraska Ave. The collection for Thanksgiving will go through Nov. 22 and Dec. 2-23 for Christmas.

• Ride & Run with the Stars
TIERRA VERDE – Twentieth annual Ride & Run with the Stars, fundraiser for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Christmas Sharing Project, Saturday, Dec. 7, 8 a.m. to noon, at Fort DeSoto Park. Registration $35. Call 582-5959 or register online at www.r­idean­drunw­ithth­estar­ Registration forms also available at the Sheriff's Office, 10750 Ulmerton Road. Main events include a 25-mile bike ride, 10K Family Fun Run, 1-mile Family Fun Run/Walk and a new 5K chip-timed for fast and accurate results. Other activities include silent auction, climbing wall, prizes, food for participants and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus who arrive in a Sheriff's helicopter. Proceeds pay to provide holiday toys and food for families in need. Visit www.f­acebo­­m/RRW­TS.

Toy drives

• Toy drives volunteers
CLEARWATER – The Marine Corps League’s Morris F. Dixon Detachment 54 still seeks volunteers to help with its Toys for Tots program. Those who want to help may call Ron Ashley at 517-6508.

• Toys for Tykes
SEMINOLE - 10th annual Toys for Tykes children's benefit, Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 to 7 p.m., at Screwie Louie's Porpoise Pub, 8701 Seminole Blvd. Call 393-7616. Hosted by John Sullivan, TJ Sutton and Lou Falco. Three live bands, Diamond Gray, Sammy Davis Jr. and a special VIP guest appearance. Activities include raffles, games and auctions.

• Toys for Tots
OLDSMAR - The Oldsmar Fire Department is participating in the Toys For Tots program. Residents can contribute to the Santa program to help the less fortunate by bringing a small, unwrapped new toy for the Toys For Tots bin. Toys are needed for ages newborn to 14 years. All donations for the Toys for Tots program must be brought to the fire station, 225 Pine Ave. N., by Friday, Dec. 13.

• Toys for Tots collection site
SEMINOLE - The Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Bayou/Bardmoor office is an official drop site for Toys for Tots as announced by Manager Scott Humphries. The office is currently accepting donations. New, unwrapped toys may be brought to the office and placed in the Toys for Tots collection bin now through Monday, Dec. 16.

The Bayou/Bardmoor office is located at 10801 Starkey Road, Suite 21, in the Bardmoor Plaza (next to the Dollar Tree Store) at the corner of Starkey and Bryan Dairy.

• Toys for Tots collection site
SEMINOLE – Bellezza Tan & Spa, 8460 Seminole Blvd., is a drop-off location for the Toys for Tots program sponsored by The Marine Corps Reserve.

• Back N' Balance to host toy drive
DUNEDIN – Back N' Balance, 1059 Broadway, Suite C, will host a toy drive Dec. 16-20. Patients who bring a new, unwrapped toy to an appointment at Back N' Balance between Dec. 16 and 20 will receive an adjustment for $25. For information, call 733-6501.

• Christmas Toys for Kids
DUNEDIN - Sound Mind Ministries of Dunedin is sponsoring the third annual Christmas Toys for Kids program to provide for 20 families. The goal is to help 80 children from birth to age 16 through the Christmas Room where parents, grandparents or guardians can choose up to two or three stocking stuffers and gifts per child. The Christmas Room will be open Friday, Dec. 20, 10 a.m. To 6 p.m., at the Dunedin office, 1130 Pinehurst Road. Sound Mind Ministries is a nonprofit 501-C3 organization. Donations for the Christmas Room are tax deductible. Call 329-6463 .

Other ways to help

• Christmas tree auction
Saturday, Dec. 7, JD's Restaurant & Lounge will have a silent auction of fully decorated Christmas trees from 10am to 5pm. The trees, donated by local businesses and residents will be each valued at more than $300. Proceeds of the auction will benefit the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association and the VFW's toy drives.

• Salvation Army Angel Tree through Dec. 13
The Salvation Army is offering the community an opportunity to help by hosting an Angel Tree in offices, lobbies, stores and churches. Decorate the Angel Tree with provided Angel Tags. Each tag contains helpful information about a child. Employees, staff, customers and church members then purchase Christmas gifts and return them to the tree for Salvation Army to collect and distribute.

Volunteers are needed at the Angel Tree Booth located inside Tyrone Square Mall (by JCPenney) to help members of the public select, register, and return gifts for Angels. Hours are flexible from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Minimum two-hour shift. For more information, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332, email or visit www.s­astpe­te.or­g.

• Salvation Army Bell Ringing through Dec. 24
Be an ambassador to the community for The Salvation Army. Families, churches, clubs, groups or company employees can ring bells at a community location Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., to help us raise funds and give hope to families in our community throughout the year. Minimum shift two hours. Saturdays are especially reserved for volunteers. To register call Gail Stark 550-8080, ext. 332.

• Salvation Army volunteers
The Salvation Army needs volunteers at the Citadel Corps, 3800 Ninth Ave. N., St. Petersburg for the following activities. For more information, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332, email or visit www.s­astpe­te.or­g.

• Christmas Food Sorting: Dec. 2-6. Volunteers will sort food collected from the fall school food drives and prepare bags for needy families. Hours are flexible from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Lifting required.

• Christmas Toy Sorting: Dec. 9-13. Volunteers will assist staff in sorting and packaging toys for needy children in the community. Hours are flexible from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ten volunteers are needed each day.

• Christmas Distribution: Dec. 17-19. Forty volunteers are needed each day to help with distribution of food, toys and other assistance to families from community. Volunteers will work as escorts, runners, loaders, checkers, toy movers and carolers. Relational volunteers are needed. Flexible hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Clean-up in afternoon. Forty volunteers per day are needed.

Holiday fundraisers

• Mayors breakfast
OLDSMAR – Join the Upper Tampa Bay and Safety Harbor chambers of commerce on Friday, Dec. 6 to help Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis and Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub raise funds to support the needy families in the area. Bevis and Ayoub will be pouring coffee at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa starting at 7:30 a.m. Tickets are $25 each and are available at the two chamber offices.

This will be the first joint appearance by the two mayors who are continuing the long-standing tradition of spreading holiday goodwill. The breakfast is organized by the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, the cities of Oldsmar and Safety Harbor, the Neighborhood Family Center and the Oldsmar-East Lake Rotary Club.

The proceeds will provide holiday food and gifts to families in need who are identified by the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center and our Community Policing Officers of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Anyone unable to attend the breakfast can donate an item for the auction or make a donation by calling the Safety Harbor Chamber at 726-2890 or the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber at 855-4233. Miniature decorated Christmas trees are a long part of the tradition of this great event.

Christmas meals, toy distributions

• Family Christmas giveaway
Here We Grow Foundation Inc. is accepting sponsorships through Nov. 29. The organization will distribute the family Christmas packages Dec.9-13. Donations can be taken to 1171 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Ideas include one gift that the whole family can share; one gift per adult, one to two toys per child, one-two clothing items per child, and food items for a Christmas meal. Call 1-888-958-2788 or email

• Free Christmas buffet
The People That Love Church and Mission, 817 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg, is offering a free Christmas buffet on Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. The mission offers its free toys for kids’ day on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 11 a.m. All children accompanied by a parent or guardian will receive a new toy and other goodies. The Christmas Eve buffet begins at 8 p.m., offering a free evening of food and joy for homeless guests and lonely neighbors. The mission ends the holiday season with a New Year’s Eve Buffet on Dec. 31, 8 p.m.

• Christmas Eve community dinner
The Salvation Army needs 40 volunteers for the Christmas Eve Community Dinner on Dec. 24. Come help prepare, serve and clean up after the Community Christmas Dinner and sit down to enjoy a holiday meal with others. Meal times are from 2 to 4 p.m. for residents and the community. For more information, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332, email or visit www.s­astpe­te.or­g.

After Christmas

• After Christmas assistance, Jan. 6-31
The Salvation Army needs volunteers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to check dates and stock food donated to the Social Services Department in the pantry at 340 14th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. For more information, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332, email or visit www.s­astpe­te.or­g.

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