ST. PETERSBURG -- Ever since taking the reins of the Rays, Joe Maddon has looked at things in a different way on and off the field. During the holiday season, Maddon's contribution off the field takes the spotlight. The Rays manager came up with a concept for helping people, and that concept came to fruition in a profound way for the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
In 2006, Maddon envisioned a way that he could parlay his budding status as a local celebrity to help feed the homeless. He decided to call his initiative "Thanksmas" and he pledged to make it a yearly event.
This year marks Maddon's eighth consecutive year for hosting the event that finds him and a band of Rays employees shopping, cooking and serving a traditional meal of spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, pierogies, salad, Italian bread and cake to hundreds of needy citizens throughout the Tampa Bay area and along Florida's West Coast.
Maddon will host Thanksmas from Dec. 16-18, at Salvation Army Shelters in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Bradenton, the Sallie House in St. Petersburg and the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater.
Over the past seven years, Maddon's Thankmas has served approximately 6,000 individuals in need and provided many of those individuals with clothing and shoes.
In 2012, as a result of numerous donations from generous Rays fans and Maddon's fundraising efforts, Thanksmas was also able to present $7,500 each to Salvation Army centers in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater and the Sallie House.
On Dec. 16, Thanksmas will return to the Sallie House for the fifth consecutive year. Sallie House is a safe haven for children who have been removed from their home because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. The Rays will also visit the Homeless Emergency Project (HEP) for the first time. Since 1986, HEP has provided homeless and low-income individuals and families housing, food, clothing and support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life.
For the fourth consecutive year, Maddon will host a fundraiser for Thanksmas at 717 South in Tampa (717 S Howard Ave.) from 5 p.m. ET until closing. The restaurant will prepare Maddon's Thanksmas meal, and Rays players and coaches will be guest servers.
Here's the rest of the 2013 Thanksmas schedule:
Dec. 13, 5 p.m. Fundraiser at 717 South Restaurant, Tampa
Dec. 14, Noon Shopping for food, Sam's Club, TBA
Dec. 15, Noon Food preparation with Joe Maddon at Tropicana Field
Dec. 16, 5 p.m. Sallie House, St. Petersburg
Dec. 17, Noon Bradenton Salvation Army, 1204 14th St.; 5 p.m. St. Petersburg Salvation Army
Dec. 18, 11:30 a.m. Homeless Emergency Project, 1120 N Betty Ln., Clearwater; 5 p.m. Tampa Salvation Army, 1603 N Florida Ave.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.