TAMPA, Fla. — A Pasco County couple continues to find ways to help the homeless in the Tampa Bay community.
Beth and Ray Ross handed out blankets to people living on the streets on Tuesday.
At a Tampa gas station, they handed out soup, blankets and hygiene kits.
"Because it's cold, we're passing out sleeping bags and blankets and hot soup. We also have blessing bags to drop off. In the blessing bags are more blankets, but also hygiene products," said Beth.
Beth and Ray operate "Blanket Tampa Bay." The couple started the nonprofit in 2015 after their church gave them $100 and told them to do something good. The nonprofit has helped more than 17,000 people in the past five years.
"I created my Facebook page and we got blankets from Wisconsin, from Georgia, from Arizona. We got them from all over," said Beth.
The couple said their own hardships inspired them to help others. Ray was diagnosed with four types of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer. He beat cancer more than 10 years ago.
"When I was really weak from the chemo, I had no idea if I'd live or die," said Ray. "I felt like I'll either live as a Christian or I'll die as a Christian."
Ray said cancer and homelessness have a lot in common.
"Nobody knows when you're going to get cancer and the same thing with a homeless person. They can lose their job, get evicted, any of those things could happen so we kind of look at it similarly," said Ray.
The nonprofit continues to gain support. Recently, The Green Committee with Moffitt Cancer Center started making sleeping bags. The Green Committee finds ways to promote environmentally conscious practices at Moffitt.
"They use blue surgical fabric that's waterproof and windproof. They started making these sleeping bags for us," said Beth.
The couple said they will continue to learn the stories of the homeless.
"Not every homeless person you see is an alcoholic or druggy or a bum. Everybody has a story. You don't know mine and I don't know yours," said Beth.
"You don't know what's around the corner and anybody can get cancer and anybody can, if something bad happens, become homeless."
For more information on Blanket Tampa Bay visit: https://www.blanketampabay.org.
To learn more about sewing efforts with Moffitt Cancer Center send an email to GreenInitiative@Moffitt.org.