­­­An editorial by Gary Nager

One of the best things about being your local, direct-mail community news magazine for more than 18 years is also, sometimes at least, one of the worst parts.

I love it when people tell me about their upcoming events, especially when they’re local residents and/or business owners putting an event in either New Tampa or Wesley Chapel. Unfortunately, many times, because we publish both our New Tampa and Wesley Chapel editions only once a month most months, with Wesley Chapel coming out two weeks after New Tampa, followed by another New Tampa edition two weeks later (and so on), we sometimes get caught with in-between dates for some events that make it impossible for us to either preview the event in a specific New Tampa or Wesley Chapel issue that comes out in time beforehand or to follow up the event within a reasonable timeframe after it takes place — or sometimes both.

That doesn’t mean we can’t cover that event, it just means that we may only be able to put the info about your event on our website (NTNeighborhoodNews.com) or that we may need you to provide information and pictures as promptly after the event as possible to get it in our next edition. And, we’re always happy to do so, as long as we have print space available and receive your info on a timely basis.

As an example, when I realized that we didn’t receive information about a wonderful local effort to feed hungry families in and outside of our area in time to preview the event — which was held and sponsored in part by Wesley Chapel Toyota (located next to I-75, off S.R. 54 at Bruce B. Downs Blvd.) — I told my friend Scarleth Leon, who helped organize and promote the “Change This World” meal packing event on June 10, to help me follow it up in this space.

Scarleth says, “The Change This World meal packing at Wesley Chapel Toyota was a huge success, not just in the amount of meals that were packed and donated, but also by the turnout and excitement of more than 300 volunteers from not only Wesley Chapel but around the Tampa Bay area.”

Eric Johnson, the director of community relations for both Wesley Chapel Toyota & Honda, says the initial goal of 40,000 meals was surpassed and a total of 50,000 meals were packed that day — in only two hours!

“We really want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped out,” Johnson says. “Your participation made the event go above and beyond our expectations.”

Many restaurants delivered and donated food and refreshments for all the volunteers — some with last minute notice, including the Wesley Chapel Outback Steakhouse, Pagelli’s Italian Restaurant in the Shops at Wiregrass, Latin Twist Café, Hungry Greek and Baja Fresh on BBD, the new PDQ Restaurant and Texas Roadhouse on S.R. 56, the Wesley Chapel Beef O’Brady’s and Betty Cakes in Dade City, to name just a few.

Along with the meals being packed, there were exhibitor booths and displays for the local charities Wesley Chapel Toyota & Honda support, as well as for businesses that sponsored the event, not only financially, but with a “hands on” approach with their employees serving. Some of the local business sponsors were: Tampa Bay Downs, Ierna’s Heating & Cooling, Wesley Chapel Law Group, Keifer Village Jewels, The Gathering Church, World Class Multimedia and TD Bank.

Face painters, a balloon twister and the “loving hands” oil paint canvas, kept approximately 75-plus kids entertained when they were not serving at the packing tables. Only two hours after the event started, all of the participants were extremely moved by the entire community coming together.

“Amazingly, 50,000 children’s lives around the world were impacted by an event in Wesley Chapel today,” said Patrick Abad, the general manager of Wesley Chapel Toyota.

This is not the first time an event like this has been held here. Last year, 250 volunteers packed 40,000 meals at the same location, bringing the total to 90,000 meals in two years.

To learn more about this event and/or to participate next year, go to Facebook.com/ChangeThisWorldMealPackingEvent and click on the “like” button. And, don’t forget to send us your info about your event, your child, etc., including pics in any digital format, to EditorialDept@ NTNeighborhoodNews.com or visit NTNeighborhoodNews.com.

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