Drug stores, the malls -- it was busy everywhere today.
But there is perhaps no place busier than Metropolitan Ministries. They had a Christmas Eve service for families who live there, and Christmas Eve dinner afterward.
But Metro Ministries is not just for residents, it is for anyone who needs help, and that was pretty evident throughout the day. Just as quickly as donations came in the front door, they exited out the back.
Lots of people showed up at the Metropolitan Ministries big tent, where Christmas Eve was in full swing. Giving started more than a month ago, and still hasn't let up.
Nichole Collins walked away with holiday food and gifts for her family.
"It means a lot to me, because I am a single mother and I just had heart surgery the 11th of the month, and been out of work for four weeks now," Collins said.
Many of the people who come for help are employed, but just barely earn enough to make ends meet. Any bump in the road can mean disaster.
Stephanie Elkins is working, but not making a fortune, and was happy to get help from Metro Ministries as well.
"They provide the toys I can't provide, " Elkins said. "I work a regular job and have enough to
maintain my bills, but that's about it. So, it doesn't leave you much extra."
It's an all-too common circumstance.
"A situation can come along where you thought you were financially strong, and you wake up and don't know where to turn," said Tim Marks, with Metropolitan Ministries.
Many turn to the organization. This year, Metro Ministries helped 24,000 people -- a record number. Of course, the agency can't do it alone. People from across the Tampa bay area helped. And on Christmas Eve, Santa made an appearance, bringing smiles to hundreds of kids.
Beyond the dinner and the presents, one young man sums up the meaning of the season.
"It is so special to me. How everyone is so peaceful, calm, loveable this time of year. It only comes once," he said.
More than 100 kids live with family members at Metro Ministries. Starting at 7 a.m. Christmas morning, they'll start getting their gifts.
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