35 Years of Feeding Tampa Bay: A Celebration in Review
Earlier last month, nonprofit and longtime ChappellRoberts client Feeding Tampa Bay celebrated 35 years and nearly 400 million meals dedicated to helping Tampa Bay residents who struggle with food insecurity. To commemorate this milestone, Feeding Tampa Bay invited its volunteers, community partners and Tampa residents to a special 35 year anniversary event.
Between the creative displays and keynote speakers present at the celebration, the event gave participants a great opportunity to learn about the heart of Feeding Tampa Bay’s mission, legacy and accomplishments throughout its history.
I’m personally familiar with Feeding Tampa Bay from its student branch at the University of South Florida, where they have a campus food pantry. However, I knew little about its current programs or history, so attending the celebration was a fun way to learn more about the organization.
As an account services intern with ChappellRoberts this fall and a senior in mass communications studying public relations at USF, this was also a great lesson on planning a meaningful, well-made internal event.
Below are four celebration features that stood out to me as creative ways Feeding Tampa Bay told guests about its story as an organization:
There’s arguably no better place for community partners to learn about Feeding Tampa Bay than its warehouse here in Tampa. This is where the organization’s volunteers and staff work every day to get food to residents in need. This makes it a great setting for celebrating Feeding Tampa Bay’s legacy and led to some clever, creative event decorations.
Guests were welcomed by Feeding Tampa Bay staff as they walked down a makeshift red carpet from the warehouse parking lot. Tables for guests were made by draping tablecloths over warehouse food packing pallets.
Having the celebration at the warehouse also allowed guests to learn about the organization from its permanent displays arranged there. One of these included mock pantry shelves holding cans labeled with the amount of time employees of major community partners — like Winn-Dixie or Walmart — volunteered with FTB.
“What’s Your Why?”
After guests entered the warehouse, one of the first displays they saw was a set of boards with a simple, impactful question written on the center — “What’s your why?” That is, what does supporting Feeding Tampa Bay mean to you, and why is its mission important to you personally? Guests wrote their answers anywhere around the question, and as the warehouse filled up for the night, the boards filled up with dozens of different reasons why community partners from around Tampa support Feeding Tampa Bay.
Having guests create a physical collection of testaments on how they help make a difference by working with Feeding Tampa Bay was a powerful way to display the organization’s impact.
Beyond the entrance and main celebration area, guests were shown around the warehouse’s permanent partner display areas, food packing rooms and staff offices. This gave them a more intimate look at the workspaces of Feeding Tampa Bay staff and volunteers, which made the visit to the warehouse more meaningful and personal.
One of the rooms (pictured) even had newspaper clippings of some of the earliest feature stories about Feeding Tampa Bay next to creative from the organization’s current Don’t Label Hunger campaign. This was a smart way to give guests a look at the organization’s early years in the 1980s and show them how far it’s come since then.
A Speech from Feeding Tampa Bay’s Founder
It was touching to learn about Feeding Tampa Bay’s humble beginnings from one of the people who built its foundation. Feeding Tampa Bay founder Michael Solomon led the event’s keynote speeches with his story on how the organization got its start in 1982. He told guests how there was “no thing more terrifying than a blank piece of paper” as Feeding Tampa Bay’s initial staff started off with a blank warehouse and little direction on how they would distribute food.
His story was chock-full of firsts for the nonprofit, like getting help from Publix founder George Jenkins to build the organization’s first food coolers, receiving the first warehouse trucks and forklifts donated from the community or recruiting its first staff members from homeless Tampa residents who they paid with meals.
Solomon’s speech was also coupled with a video outlining the organization’s history and milestones, including interviews with some of Feeding Tampa Bay’s earliest volunteers.
This was a special way to remind veteran volunteers and longtime community partners of Feeding Tampa Bay’s core values and mission while teaching new volunteers and partners about the organization’s culture and history. As origin stories go, you can’t get much more authentic and heartfelt than this, and while a lot has changed since the 80s, it’s inspiring to know that Solomon is still around to support the work that Feeding Tampa Bay does for today’s Tampa residents.
For someone new to Feeding Tampa Bay’s legacy here in Tampa, this celebration was a great introduction to the difference the organization’s staff and volunteers make in the lives of Tampa Bay community members. It’s also a great instance of an internal event that inspires new members of an organization while kindling the passions of those closest to the organization.
Here’s to another inspiring 35 years of Feeding Tampa Bay!