TAMPA (WFLA) – Inside the Metropolitan Ministries warehouse, volunteers are packing boxes with nearly two dozen non-perishable items for Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Tampa Police Department officers to distribute to families in need.
“I’m not saying these boxes we are putting out as a first step is the answer or the solution,” Tampa attorney Steve Yerrid said. “But what I am saying is, it’s the first step and I don’t care how long that journey is.”
A $100,000 donation from The Yerrid Foundation is funding the creation of 5,000 food boxes for families as well as 500 backpacks filled with food, hygiene products, and resources materials for the city’s homeless population.
“The title of the initiative is ‘We Care’ and it couldn’t be more fitting because we’re up here because we care,” HCSO Col. Kyle Robinson said. “We’re in law enforcement because we care.”
This program is being launched as the coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to face food insecurities. Now, when officers and deputies encounter families in need, they can help put food on their tables.
“We may go back several times with these boxes to help people,” Chief Dugan said, “so it gives us a good opportunity, it’s about community policing.”
Yerrid approached Sheriff Chad Chronister and Police Chief Brian Dugan with this idea he hopes will build better relationships between law enforcement and the residents of the community.
“When I get pulled over, I get pulled over wondering if I’m going to get a ticket,” Yerrid said. “A person of color gets pulled over they often wonder if they’re going to live. It’s not right. Something has got to be done.”
After a year of social unrest and heightened tensions over police after tragic incidents across the country, Yerrid said he hopes this program in Tampa can be a model for the rest of the nation.
“The America we need is going to be created I hope by an example of the sheriff’s deputies and the Tampa police officers going out and learning the community again,” Yerrid said.
Each of the “We Care” food boxes is packed with items designed to feed a family of four or five for up to three or four days. Larger families can receive more than one box per household.
Metropolitan Ministries began delivering the first wave of boxes to HCSO and TPD on Tuesday and those shipments will be replenished on an ongoing basis, said Billy Somerville, the director of Brand Communications for Metropolitan Ministries.