Just Be Kind – Feb. 17 and Every Day

If someone does something especially nice for you on Feb. 17, it may be because that date has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Day. Much has changed since this day a year ago, just prior to organizations like The Straz slowing down in the wake of the coronavirus.

Closed doors hasn’t meant inactivity, however. Social distancing and working off-site haven’t stopped those who want to help others, from helping others. Creativity surrounding how to operate has taken hold, as the need in our community has increased, rather than decreased, and the need for kindness has become ever more apparent.

Repeatedly over the last year, as the realization of the seriousness of COVID 19 took hold, we’ve heard and shouted the rallying cry of “We’re all in this together.” Random Acts of Kindness Day reminds us that kindness is needed – every day – and we can all take action to strengthen our communities.

Here are just a few local organizations that can use some of your generosity of funds, talent and random kindness:

The Straz Center
Performers and performing arts venues have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, as their existence depends on audiences generally consisting of large crowds. The Straz has creatively stayed relevant by offering Zoom and taped performances and by utilizing its spacious campus for live and safe performances. Much of the entertainment and community support The Straz has been providing over the last year has come at a loss financially. As long as our theater capacity remains reduced, so do our ticket sales. We will continue to face a significant operating gap and depend on charitable gifts to enable us to deliver programs and entertainment to the community. Give to the Raise the Curtain Recovery Fund to ensure our ability to present inspiring performances, provide meaningful arts education and community engagement experiences and maintain a safe, state-of-the-art facility. Donors keep The Straz strong and help to raise the curtains on all our stages.

Feeding Tampa Bay
The number of families dealing with food instability has increased tremendously during the pandemic. Volunteers and staff have been working tirelessly to provide food to those struggling with food insecurity across 10 counties. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding Tampa Bay has evolved its services by almost doubling its reach to serve 2 million meals weekly. Like most nonprofits, Feeding Tampa Bay depends on monetary donations from generous supporters. But they also need assistance with physical labor. Sorting through food, packing up food, cleaning the warehouse are all activities largely handled by volunteers. Fifty-five volunteer shifts are available every week; volunteers are asked to sign up at https://volunteer.feedingtampabay.org/calendar. Questions can be directed to volunteer@feedingtampabay.org.

Tampa Bay Watch
Many of us have been spending more time outdoors lately and we appreciate our beautiful west central Florida surroundings. Folks at Tampa Bay Watch have been working diligently since 1993 to protect and restore our incredible Tampa Bay estuary by organizing habitat restoration projects such as oyster shell bar installations, native plantings, and coastal cleanups with the help of community volunteers. Their environmental education program recently shifted gears to develop traveling education kits, virtual education programs, and new public education offerings while traditional public school field trips are on hold. They also have opened a Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center at the new St. Petersburg Pier. More info about ways to volunteer can be found at https://tampabaywatch.org/volunteer-main/scheduled-projects/.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Hillsborough
The demand for NAMI Hillsborough’s mental health programs increased exponentially as the Coronavirus pandemic progressed. NAMI Hillsborough responded by quickly transitioning free support groups and educational courses to a virtual format. Donations of time and money are needed, as the organization relies on volunteers to lead programs and do other things. Their message of hope remains the same: You Are Not Alone. Visit NAMIHillsborough.org for more details.

OASIS Network
Families of students in Hillsborough County are struggling to provide shelter, food and other basic necessities to their children as the effects of the pandemic continue into 2021. OASIS Network, a grassroots nonprofit, partners with the Hillsborough County Public Schools social workers to provide students in need with clothing, hygiene items, food and other basic necessities. Providing equal access to these essentials enables students to fully focus on education. OASIS’ need for gently used clothing, new hygiene items such as shampoo, etc., as well as funding, is greater than ever. If you would like to show kindness toward children in our community, visit oasis-network.org.

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