TAMPA, Fla. – Right now, someone you know is on the brink of homelessness. They are your neighbor, your cashier at the grocery store, your child’s classmate, your fellow worship attendee, or your family member.
They may have struggled for a while, or perhaps their life has been thrown into a tailspin during COVID-19. Combating homelessness may feel like a Herculean task, but the truth couldn’t be further from that. Simple acts can be the catalyst to make significant changes.
In 2015, Beth Ross’s church gifted families $100 with the mission that they would have to do something good with the money. She told her husband, Ray, that she wanted to use the funds to buy blankets for the homeless. Knowing that $100 wouldn’t stretch very far, she decided to do something drastic. She asked for help.
Beth set up a Facebook page and requested blanket donations, with the goal of collecting 300 for that holiday season. People responded generously. As she and Ray handed out 308 blankets the first year, she saw the hope that it brought to the recipients’ eyes and knew that this was the beginning of something big. Blanket Tampa Bay, a 501(c)(3) organization, was born.
Since its start six years ago, Blanket Tampa Bay has had the mission of serving Tampa’s homeless community with dignity and compassion, providing much-needed supplies like jackets, hygiene products, socks, sunscreen, a hot meal, and, of course, blankets. In that time the organization has collected nearly 11,000 blankets and helped over 17,000 people.
Beth Ross has always been a visionary and is taking Blanket Tampa Bay’s mission a step further by rebranding as Blanketing Tampa Bay. “While providing blankets was our humble beginning, our new name reflects our efforts to provide essential services to the homeless to get them back on their feet.” Beth’s newest project is to provide Tampa Bay with an Urban Rest Stop. Inspired during a trip to Seattle, Beth realized that Tampa was lacking some of the basic services that people needed to regain employment and afford housing.
“The Urban Rest Stop will be Tampa’s first hygiene facility specifically designed to meet the needs of homeless persons who are working or need to get a job interview. It will offer shower, laundry, and small storage services to a wide range of people, regardless of age, gender, race, or ability. We strive to provide them with the needed confidence to pursue and maintain employment.”
Beth’s dream extends beyond providing cleanliness. Her goal for Phase 2 of Urban Rest Stop is to partner with staffing companies and counseling services to further assist those seeking re-employment. Maintaining the current services of Blanketing Tampa Bay, while working to establish Tampa Bay’s first Urban Rest Stop, is a non-stop passion project. Once again, though, Beth continues to do what led to her success in her first blanket drive… ask for help.
“Many people don’t realize how easy it is to change the day or the life of homeless persons in their community. From a simple donation of warm socks, to a financial contribution from that unexpected bonus you received, so little can do so much,” Beth states. “Nobody is immune to the risk of homelessness. However, hope is a powerful tool in supporting our fellow neighbors as they get back on their feet.”
If you feel inspired to join Blanketing Tampa Bay in making real change, here are three simple ways to help:
- Donate Financially- Make a personal financial contribution or become a corporate sponsor by clicking here.
- Donate Supplies- Review the list of the most-needed items each season and gather donations. More information here.
- Donate Time- Just a few free hours each month can make a big difference. Learn more about becoming a Blanketing Tampa Bay Ambassador here. Sign up for their newsletter and share their efforts with your network.
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