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Open Arms Ministry

This March we returned to Open Arms at Hyde Park United Methodist. The program has really grown and now tops out at about 200 guests each Sunday morning.


Students of GET REAL Involved! were on hand to prepare bread and fruit for the guests, and to serve each with a smile and kind words. There was a ton to eat: biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs, barbecue…it was a nice meal on this sunny Sunday morning.

It actually was a little less sunny early in the morning because the clocks “sprung ahead” one hour in the middle of the night. But despite the earlier than usual hour, eighteen students were on hand to do their part. And while at first, as one would expect, eyes were a bit blurry, by serving time, all the students were wide awake, laughing with their friends, and with the guests.


Damian, Christine and her little brother tackled preparation of the bagels with cream cheese. Cort and Andrew were on the fruit cup preparation and despite some misguided instructions from Catherine, they had the line ready to go by serving time. Then of course we all had to wait out “the lull.” (The lull time is that in between time when all the food is ready to go, but we wait on all the guests to arrive, get their seats, and stock up on coffee and juice.) Just before serving begins Hyde Park United Methodist’s Joyful Praise Ensemble comes in to sing for the guests. They performed about three songs, then it was time to give thanks and the meal began.

Meg, Marge, Hayden, Scott, Damian, Jessica, Madelaine, Fletcher, Lindsay, Carly and Cort took the first shift on the line, greeting each guest as they came for food. Hayden, Andrew and Tyler took the role of “runners” to bring food as the line ran low. The second shift of servers included Jessica, Tyler, Andrew, Robbie and Dan.

Tanner, brother Brooks and sidekick Nina (who are all old pros at serving at Open Arms) helped to keep the flow going. Things start moving really fast once serving starts. Matt B. was the front man on getting the process of cleaning the dishes going. He had staked out that position early and worked with the Open Arms team to be sure the process would run smoothly. As dishes were emptied, both inside the kitchen and out in the dining area, the GET REAL Involved! team operated like a smooth running machine. Meg and Robbie helped Lee get all the plates dried and put away. And while some continued to man the line, clean up of the 20+ tables began. Wiping them down, collecting all the chairs, and breaking down the tables. It’s quite an operation. The cool thing is that many of the guests pitch in.

Because of daylight savings time, some guests arrived an hour later than normal, so we split into two teams: one to continue serving and the other split between cleaning up the kitchen and the dining room. Tyler manned the “Zamboni” style vacuum cleaner – and of course Tanner had to get his turn at that too, so they traded off. Nina, Hayden, Dan and several others, kept the process going until everything was back in its place. The line was broken down, the kitchen floors swept, and all the guests had departed. It was like the melee of activity that is Open Arms had never taken place!

One of the best things about GET REAL Involved! is that we can have so much fun while we work to change the world! It may seem like a simple morning serving 200 homeless men and women isn’t really changing the world, but we think every act of kindness helps to change the world.

Our next project will be on April 25th at America’s Second Harvest. If you’re interested in finding out more, click here. Talk to you next month!

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Metropolitan Ministries

Metropolitan Ministries started as a cooperative effort among area churches to bring relief to homeless families and hungry people in the Tampa Bay area. Together they were able to accomplish more than the thirteen original churches could do individually. And that is a lesson we can all take from, and one that is at the root of what GET REAL Involved! is all about. Bringing student volunteers together for an even bigger impact than individual efforts.

GET REAL Involved! has long been a partner with Metropolitan Ministries, bringing groups there for the last three years to help with Backpacks for Hope, their back to school supplies drive, as well as each year for BOXES OF HOPE at Christmas time. But this month, our manpower was put to work moving their GED classroom across campus. We were seven students and two adults lugging boxes and equipment from the old classroom to the brand new facility across campus. The old adage many hands make light work was proven in how quickly we were able to accomplish the move.

After we finished the move, we broke up into two teams; one helped to clean the classroom furniture, and the other headed to the kitchen to give a hand there. One of our students, Kerianne Fernandez, is an old pro working with Metropolitan Ministries, and served as our guide almost as we began our stint in the kitchen. There were four of us in the kitchen and we had to wear hair nets and aprons (sorry no photos!) to insure sanitary conditions. Our new GET REAL Involved! student Jason, who is a strong young man, was recruited immediately for some heavy lifting duties, while Catherine, Kerianne and Jess were put to work filling large pots with mixed vegetables. Now, this was harder than it sounds. Met Min’s kitchen has an old table mounted can opener which requires a bit of finesse to operate. Catherine took command of this apparatus and proceeded to crush several cans before she got the hang of it. But in time, she, Kerianne and Jess has established a great rhythmic assembly line of opening, draining and dumping the cans of veggies into the pots. Jason kept the cans stocked for our assembly line, and we all were highly productive in a short 90 minutes!

Meanwhile, across campus, Jen had Alex, Andrew, Carlisle and Josh finish cleaning the classroom furniture and then they helped clean up the cafeteria as we were getting ready for lunch.

All in all it was a great and productive day, and we are looking forward to returning to Metropolitan Ministries on a regular basis to deepen our partnership.

Next month we’ll spend some more time in the kitchen as GET REAL Involved! serves at Open Arms Ministry on Sunday, March 8, 2009.

If you’d like to sign up, click here.

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