Ending hunger one sandwich at a time

Mirna Abushanab, Staff

You see them every day, cold, hungry and alone.

Unfortunately, that is the reality for over 550,000 homeless Americans. But if you ever feel like giving back to the community, Project Downtown Tampa is a great organization to join.

Project Downtown has been a part of the Tampa Bay community for 12 years. The nonprofit is organized through the University of South Florida, but it is open to the public, as it has different chapters across the country.

On a typical outing, volunteers meet at The Student Marshal Center located at USF at 4:30 p.m. to prepare the sandwiches donated by Salem’s Gyro. After the sandwiches have been made and the volunteers finish cleaning their stations, they start heading downtown. Once all the volunteers gather, Connor, the organization’s president, starts by calling everyone to a huddle, so he can explain the rules for the day and help out the new volunteers.

Students volunteers are split into three groups that go to three locations: Gaslight Park, Good Samaritan Park, and Borrell Park. Passing the food out takes only about 30-40 minutes. Finally, the last location that everyone meets up at is the Dock.

At the Dock, they have the final food distribution where the volunteers can get more personal with the homeless and have their last huddle of the night before people start socializing.

Eman, a volunteer with the organization, shared that some of the homeless even know her by name. She added she uses this opportunity to reflect on how grateful she is for her life. Every Friday, project Downtown feeds about 120 homeless men and women on the streets of Downtown Tampa.

The hard work of getting everything ready and on time would not be possible without the help of the 20-30 devoted volunteers that come out every week. What’s great about this organization is that they haven’t missed a single Friday since they first started 12 years ago. Rain or shine you can always count on them.