TAMPA, Fla - Thousands of community members received meals and hundreds of children received presents this Christmas thanks to Metropolitan Ministries and volunteers. Some families living at the ministries also received an additional gift that will last a lifetime.
For Thomas, Carla, and little Jeremiah, this Christmas was full of firsts.
"Christmas morning was kind of like something you would see in the movies you know," said Thomas Broxton.
"It made my day to see him very happy and get all these gifts that you know I probably could never afford," said Carla Pizarro. Their little one, Jeremiah received gifts thanks to Metropolitan Ministries.
The most special part of Christmas though, for this family, is something many people may take for granted. Families living at Metropolitan Ministries could receive free professional family portraits courtesy of portrait photographer, Pepito and his talented team.
"I do this because I want to give back," said Pepito. "This morning one lady came back and she was screaming and jumping up and down ... wow I couldn't believe it."
It is a 20 plus year holiday tradition with Metro Ministries, giving families a picture-perfect gift that even Jolly Ol' St. Nick cannot swing.
"Well, it means a lot, because you know, we want something to cherish in our home that represents us," said Broxton.
Metropolitan Ministries also hosted a free community meal for the homeless and hungry in the Tampa area Christmas afternoon. Volunteers served more than 1800 hot meals made up of ham, sweet potatoes, veggies and pie. ABC Action News spoke with several volunteers, including the Sinclair family, who say they do it because they know how fortunate they are and want to give back this holiday season.
“In all honesty, because it feels really good. It's a really great place to be, you get to meet a lot of happy people and you get to be part of something bigger than yourself,” said Melissa Sinclair, who has been volunteering and serving meals for Metro Ministries with her daughter and husband, for the past five years. Metro Ministries says close to 12,000 people volunteered with the organization this holiday season.