Hillsborough Education Foundation Helps Provide Safe, Healthy Activities for Children and Families at Metropolitan Ministries

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect families in Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Education Foundation is committed to ensuring children in our community are supported.

After learning of the need for activities for Sullivan Partnership School students and families who live on the campus of Metropolitan Ministries—a local nonprofit that provides solutions for low-income and homeless families and individuals throughout Tampa Bay—Hillsborough Education Foundation joined local churches and elementary schools in donating sidewalk chalk, bubbles, hula hoops and jump ropes to Metropolitan Ministries effort, “Operation Hula Hoop.”

“We have 100 families that live here on campus, and I came to the realization late last week that we need to equip each of our families with equipment that was safe, included social distancing and could be easily cleaned so that when they bring their families out to do exercise they would have something to really inspire their kids to come out and have fun,” said Metropolitan Ministries VP of EFFINITY Training and Education Jamie Meyer.

Meyer explained that many of the families who Metropolitan Ministries serve are experiencing heightened levels of homelessness, joblessness or job insecurity due to COVID-19. To combat the trauma and stress families may be experiencing, Meyer initiated Operation Hula Hoop to help get equipment that children and families could use to stay moving.

“We’re all learning a new reality, and what we know about trauma is that it settles into the body if we don’t move our bodies, so hula hoops came to mind,” Meyer said. “That was the first thing that came to mind and then later we thought about jump ropes and sidewalk chalk and bubbles, so this became Operation Hula Hoop. We reached out to our friend Titus O’Neil who quickly reached out to our friends at Hillsborough Education Foundation and you all went to work.”

Hillsborough Education Foundation Board Member Kimberly Thresher said she was proud of the way the Foundation, and the entire community, has supported those in need during such a trying time.

In addition to HEF’s donation of bubbles and sidewalk chalk from our Teaching Tools Resource Center, Thresher explained with help from Hillsborough County Council PTA President Damaris Allen, Parent Teacher Associations at Mabry, Ballast Point, Roosevelt and Grady Elementary schools all donated hula hoops and jump ropes to Metropolitan Ministries; Foster Elementary Principal Francine Lazarus donated hula hoops and jump ropes on behalf of the school; and Hyde Park United Methodist Church and Christ the King Church donated hula hoops, jump ropes and chalk.

“Just to bring fun to kids in such a stressful time when everything is so new and different— just to bring joy and every kid deserves that and every kid needs that, and that we can play a part in that just makes me so happy,” Thresher said. “Hillsborough County is a wonderful, giving community and to see that humanity and to see how quickly this has happened because everyone wants to give—giving to HEF at this time for this COVID relief and also just in general is going to allow us to do this and continue to support more families and more students.”

Meyer said the outpouring of support for Operation Hula Hoop has been incredible, and she is grateful for the contribution from Hillsborough Education Foundation as Metropolitan Ministries seeks to bring families together in a safe and healthy way.

“We love our partnership with Hillsborough Education Foundation,” Meyer said. “We partner all year round through Take Stock and other programs. This has really just been a beautiful ray of sunshine that we all needed—both for those of us that are receiving these gifts and for our donors in the community who have stepped up. They’re able to help from afar.”

To help Hillsborough Education Foundation continue our mission to provide at-risk students with necessary supplies, online access and technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, make a contribution at www.educationfoundation.com/donate.