Operation Santa Cause, the Department of Children and Families' annual holiday drive, successfully matched community support with more than two dozen specific needs around the state. One of those initiatives is in Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Gardens sits on land behind St. Mary's Ethiopian Orthodox Church on 86th Street South in Tampa. The fresh produce helps feed dozens of refugees who also care for the garden themselves.
"You know for one thing whatever you see in the garden it's all organic stuff," explained Joseph Germain who is a pastor and co-founder of the garden.
Germain says a $300 donation from DCF helped start the garden three years ago. Now it's a thriving plot of land that includes a chicken coop and sheep farm which all benefit the refugees who couldn't afford those foods otherwise.
"They're vegetables that they eat themselves, so it's something that they can take home... that can help their families," Germain said.
Mike Carroll, Regional Managing Director for DCF, says the Tampa Bay Gardens is exactly the kind of effort his agency aims to help each year.
"This particular program here is just what the department wants to support. It's the refugee community helping the refugee community. It's about people and families helping people and families," Carroll said.
Pastor Berhanu Bekele is a refugee who also helped start the garden. He says all of the donations that have helped the garden thrive over the years, including the DCF Santa Cause money, mean the world to the refugees who already believe their future is brighter here than anywhere else.
"When anyone says this is my country, the country is the air and the ground which nature provided him or her as a home," Bekele said.
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