Rays help community with Week of Giving

December 9th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- On Tuesday, 10 Rays employees wearing matching yellow T-shirts lined up in Metropolitan Ministries’ warehouse, building cardboard boxes and filling them with food and toys. Printed near the bottom of each box were three words: “Hope is here.”

It was the second day of the Rays and Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Week of Giving -- five straight days of donations and volunteer events for local nonprofits and families in need during the holiday season. Rays employees sorted food donations and assembled “Boxes of Hope,” full of non-perishable items, before presenting a $5,000 donation that Metropolitan Ministries would almost immediately put to use in its mission to care for homeless individuals and families.

“The whole idea behind it is for us to be able to give whatever we can -- whether that's our time, whether it's monetary donations, whether it's toys or food or even just raising awareness for causes that we're passionate about,” said David Egles, executive director of the Rays Baseball Foundation. “This is just one example of the kind of things that we want to do.”

The Rays Baseball Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of those in need within the Tampa Bay community, focusing on youth, education, wellness and social responsibility. As an organization, the Rays demonstrate that commitment by giving employees one paid day off per month for community service. Those areas of focus are reflected in all the different ways they’ve worked to give back during the Week of Giving.

On Monday, the Rays and Rowdies mascots visited Bayfront Health St. Petersburg to provide all the nurses and frontline hospital staff in the intensive care unit with breakfast and complimentary tickets to Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field.

On Tuesday, Rays staff members donned their Employee Community Outreach Team (ECOT) shirts and went to work for a few hours in the Metropolitan Ministries warehouse. Justine Burke, the vice president of marketing for Metropolitan Ministries, said they were expecting as many as 16,000 families in the Tampa Bay area to register for assistance during the holiday season, a need that requires a $2 million initiative and thousands of volunteer hours.

Burke said the Rays’ donation would help Metropolitan Ministries procure food that’s been in short supply and address a shortage of toys for 4- to 8-year-old children.

“We are so thankful for the Rays and Rowdies being here today in our food warehouse, where they're spending a few hours packing food boxes that are going to go out to families in need,” Burke said. “This year, we're seeing a big need still from elongated effects with the pandemic. … We call these boxes that they're making 'Boxes of Hope.' The Rays and Rowdies team is here today helping us get those boxes ready to go out to families that may go without if it weren't for our help, so their participation is vital to our operation.”

On Wednesday, the Rays and Rowdies provided dinner and gifts for children at the Pinellas Park Boys & Girls Club as they dined on pizza, milk and cookies with Mrs. Claus in what Egles called “a holiday twist on the Reading with the Rays program.”

The Week of Giving will continue Thursday, when four children and families affiliated with Wheelchairs 4 Kids -- a nonprofit that works with children with physical disabilities -- are set for a VIP experience at Enchant Christmas at The Trop. During their early-access visit, they will receive custom therapy trikes and a walker as gifts.

On Friday, Rays and Rowdies staff will wrap up their Week of Giving by delivering holiday gifts to 30 homeless families at nearby Campbell Park Elementary School. Employees of both clubs have been taking part in a toy drive in their offices, filling up boxes that Egles said have been “overflowing.” They will present those gifts to 56 children along with $10,000 in grocery store gift cards from the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund.

“It’s not just the foundation. It's the Rays and Rowdies front office. It's staff coming to us and telling us what's important to them and then going out in the community,” Egles said. “It's not just over the holidays, although we tend to think more about these kind of things around the holidays. It's stuff we do year-round as well. But our employees have told us specifically that they want to be able to give back during this holiday season, so that's the reason behind the Week of Giving.”