The holidays had always been a special time for New Tampa’s Ken Adum. A long-time educator and member of St. James United Methodist Church in Tampa Palms, Adum had devoted much of the holiday season for nearly two decades to playing an integral role in his church’s annual holiday food drive, which was held in partnership with Metropolitan Ministries.
The effort was Adum’s passion. He helped rally local schools when it came to organizing food drives, and also served as the St. James tent coordinator the past few years. He was often busy in the weeks before Thanksgiving hooking the trailer containing all of the donated goods to his Ford F-150 truck and delivering them every few days to the Metropolitan Ministries main tent on N. Rome Ave.
“He loved it,” says his daughter Allison Adum Shaer. “He always looked forward to it.”
In April, Ken, a former teacher, three-time Principal of the Year at Gaither and administrator in a 37-year career with Hillsborough County Public Schools, passed away following a battle with cancer at the age of 74.
Metropolitan Ministries, whose founder Morris Hintzman also was one of the founding pastors of St. James, decided to honor Adum by naming the northern Hillsborough County food drive after him: The Ken Adum Memorial Food & Toy Drive for Metropolitan Ministries.
“He played such a big part in it,” says Dineen Paris who, along with her husband Leonard, are the tent coordinators for the drive this year.
First, A Little History…
In 2003, the Parises, along with Ken and his wife Linda and Joann and Bob Lee, met with Metropolitan Ministries, wanting to expand St. James’ mission of giving back to the community. They formed a partnership that has helped feed thousands of families in the two decades since.
This year, a record 27,000 pounds of food was collected for Metropolitan Ministries in November at St. James. Ken’s daughters, Amie Adum MacLauchlan and Allison, raised roughly a quarter of that in a friendly competition between the schools where they teach. Allison is a fifth-grade math teacher at Lutz Prep, while Amie is an audiologist at Chiles Elementary.
Allison’s fifth-grade class collected 1,600 pounds of food, while Amie (with help from fifth grade teacher Shannon Simpkins) enlisted the teachers in every grade at Chiles and raised a whopping 5,190 pounds.
“This year was definitely more meaningful,” Amie says. “Education and Metropolitan Ministries were two of my Dad’s passions, so knowing that he was smiling down on us during the whole fall season was wonderful. I really wanted to get our school involved to see if I could inspire everyone to do it in honor of my dad.”
The daughters definitely picked up where Dad left off. It was Adum who added the component of competition between area schools in 2017, hoping to put a charge into the drive and impact the younger generation.
“He loved a good friendly competition,” Allison says.
Amie was amazed by the response at Chiles. Day by day, little by little, the donations began rolling in. The school had never collected more than 1,000 pounds worth of food to donate, but that number was quickly eclipsed this year, as large blue barrels in the front office at Chiles were filled to overflowing.
That amount quickly surged 2,000 lbs.….then 3,000…and more, until the blue barrels were buried by cans and boxes of food.
“First, it was the blue barrels, then you could see that more of the floor was disappearing,” Amie says. “Then, you couldn’t see the rug anymore.”
By the time the food drive ended, in less than two weeks, the families at Chiles had brought in more than two-and-a-half tons of food.
When Amie brought Linda to the school on Nov. 19 to see what Ken had inspired, Linda grew emotional.
“I wanted her to see how much they had brought in in honor of Dad,” Amie says. “It was awe-inspiring. Then, she helped us pack it all up so we could take it to the donation tent. It took us an hour and 40 minutes to pack it up, bag it and load the cars.”
The family also decided to start a new tradition. While everyone had pitched in over the years working the tent at St. James at various times during the drive, this year, the entire Adum family gathered this year to work the tent together — unloading donations, weighing food, separating it into HOPE boxes (containing a variety of items for one full Thanksgiving feast) — followed by a family lunch.
It was a special moment (see photo on the cover) to remember the man who helped start it all.
“Losing Ken was a great loss, but to see everyone’s enthusiasm this year, it wasn’t a sad thing, it was a joyful thing,” Dineen says. “It was wonderful to watch them, their whole family (working) together. Ken would have liked it very much.”
You can still donate food or toys by visiting St. James United Methodist Church at 16202 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. daily through Thursday, December 23.