Metropolitan Ministries Bridge Builders 2018

Today is Give Day Tampa Bay which I thought was the perfect day to post sneak peeks from Metropolitan Ministries Bridge Builders event that I photographed last week.  This is one of my favorite, if not my favorite fundraising event each year, and this year their team blew this event out of the water.  The main speaker was going to be WWE wrestler, Titus O'Neil (aka Thaddeus Boullard).  I got to hear some of his story at the Uplift U Metromin graduation last fall.  His story is amazing, his mom was raped when she was 11 and he and his brothers overcame all the obstacles to graduate from college and he is infamous in the WWE.  He was suppose to be there in person but got called out of the country, so they did a series of videos. The first was of the Strong family, which their last name says it all.  The mom walked 18 miles to get to Metromin and how her 3 boys are looking towards college and becoming engineers (I got to talk with them after the event about that:-).  Then they showed Titus' reaction to the video of this family, he teared up at the familiar struggle of their story.  The 3rd video was of Titus having a sit down with the teens from Metromin and he told them he loves them and he believes in them.  He said when someone told him that as a teenager no one had ever said that before and it changed everything for him.  His mom, Daria, was there in person and they had a special hand crafted WWE belt for both her and Titus naming them as Metromin Champions of Hope.  They had Titus record a special video just for his mom, I know words are really doing it justice as to how powerful it was but hopefully you can get a little glimpse of it here.  Their hashtag is #behope and they definitely are making a huge impact to lift up people in Tampa Bay.  Give Day Tampa Bay is a 24 hour online giving challenge for tons of local non profits so whether it's Metromin or whatever your favorite organization is to give back to go on and give to make a difference in our city!

Metropolitan Ministries Culinary Arts & Uplift U Graduation

Hope is Here.  It's so true!  That is honestly what they do in Tampa Bay and why I love Metromin and donating my time there whenever I can.  I had the opportunity to photograph the graduation from their Culinary Arts and Uplift U programs. Chef teared up as he talked about his students and celebrated each one as he called them up to be recognized.  They've got jobs in some of the premier restaurants in Tampa like Mise En Place and Ulele.  The Uplift U graduates have completed training that has landed them jobs and stable housing for themselves and their kids (all the kids are so freaking cute:-)!  At some point in life they found themselves in a position of homelessness with no one to turn to.  Metromin helped give them the resources needed to change their life and become self-sufficient. When Tim Marks, President and CEO was talking to them he said something like "this place isn't the best place, the best place is your own place" it's the same as home sweet home right?  Each of the Uplift U grads were recognized and I love that each of the kids got a medal as well.  At the end, they had a little surprise guest for the graduates.  WWE wrestler Titus O'Neil shared his story of how his mom was raped at 11 years old and he was born when she was only 12 years old.  His story is pretty amazing and he lives here in Tampa Bay and does a ton of work with charities helping kids go to college, after school programs, and United Way just to name a few.  This was definitely a very special event and so inspiring! 

Metropolitan Ministries Bridge Builders 2016

Metropolitan Ministries truly brings hope to those who are running short on it in Tampa Bay.  Over 1000 people supported their annual Bridge Builders event at the Hilton Downtown Tampa.  Lunch was provided by their cafe and catering company, Inside the Box.  It's "Good Food Doing Good", because all proceeds go back to feeding the hungry and people in need right here in Tampa, the food and service there is awesome.  Definitely worth a visit if you haven't been!  They shared a video story of Linda, and how working there has changed her life.  She actually made the cheesecake favors at each place setting.  Pam Iorio was presented with the 2016 Bridge Builders award and a hug from some of the Notes of Joy.  Metromin's President, Tim Marks, talked about outcomes, success rates, and how they measure, and constantly improve on helping people (makes my nerdy engineering heart leap:-)  They have a 92% success rate in their short term program and 88% success rate in their long term program which means almost all their families are leaving with housing, and a plan to be self-sufficient.  If you haven't taken a tour of the campus, or volunteered with them, you must!  it will blow your mind the impact they are making on Tampa Bay! 

Metropolitan Ministries Bridge Builders Event

Metropolitan Ministries has such a huge impact on the Tampa Bay community and we had the honor of photographing their annual benefit, Bridge Builders. I absolutely love what they do, providing hope for the homeless.  They have been since 1972.  If you see their trucks around town they say "Truck of Hope". The ballroom at the Hilton Downtown Tampa was packed with over 800 people that came out in support. Kelly Ring, from My Fox Tampa Bay was the MC. One of their families told their story of how they went from homelessness to giving their daughters a future and accomplishing their dreams of going to college when they graduate from high school. The kids choir the Notes of Joy pretty much stole the show!