By Marcus Fernandez
This past year, I was fortunate enough to be named to the 2018-19 class of Tampa Bay Lightning Community Heroes. The program recognizes local citizens making a difference in the community. It’s a moment that puts the “hero” at center stage. It turns out, I was also one of the most impressionable fans in attendance.
You see, the Community Hero program illustrates how beautifully everyday people are achieving extraordinary things, many times with limited resources. I felt blessed to join a group of individuals positively impacting our community. Inspired by what I saw, I wanted to discover and support others making a difference in Tampa Bay.
Recently, I heard about a local woman named Nik-kia. Nik-kia seems almost like anyone else – a working mother of two, who is busily juggling life. But while everyone else prepares for their Thanksgiving holiday, Nik-kia dons a metaphorical cape and becomes a hero for locals in need.
While working on a service project with her daughters five years ago, Nik-kia found herself inspired to give back and help others. She decided that before she and her family would sit down to their own Thanksgiving meal, they would first feed individuals in need, many of whom were homeless. With that, 100 Meals was born.
How 100 Meals Works
100 Meals was established with the thought that everyone deserves the feeling of family and community, especially around the holidays and each of us has the power to make a difference. Simple in its mission and clear in her vision, Nik-kia quickly received offers of help from friends and family. From turkey to sides and even pie, each person adopted a portion of the menu. Local Girl Scouts helped with personal notes of inspiration, love and gratitude that would accompany each meal.
Then, on Thanksgiving morning, 15 families gather at Nik-kia’s house to help assemble 100 boxes of food. Each package carefully adorned with a card. Fully loaded, the families drive to downtown Tampa and set up next to local nonprofit No Strings Attached, which distributes clothing and shoes to the same group. Each guest is invited to gather needed items and then visit the tent for a warm meal.
Our team was grateful to join 100 Meals this holiday. Now in its fifth year, the program has fed more than 500 people on Thanksgiving morning. Nik-kia also began distributing care bags that included toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine products, and other essential toiletries.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across waters to create many ripples.”
— Mother Teresa
Nik-kia exemplifies the ripple effect of giving and the inspirational impact that one person can have on a community – not only by directly impacting those in need but also inspiring others to do more, give more and ultimately be more.
Are you inspired to make a difference in the Tampa Bay Community this holiday season?
To find out how you can support future 100 Meals, visit their website follow their Facebook page. You can also support the incredible work being done by No Strings Attached during the Christmas holiday by visiting their website nosacares.org.