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Floridians Add Some "Giving" to Thanksgiving

November 25, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. - For many Floridians, this Thursday is about sharing a big turkey dinner with family and watching parades and football, but some nonprofit groups are reminding people to also put some "giving" into Thanksgiving.

Former University of Florida football player Roger Pettee, now a successful businessman, is taking turkey dinners with all the trimmings to 25 struggling families. He's been doing this for 10 years through a charity he founded, the Tampa Bay Free Kidz Store, and says he enjoys being able to give back.

"It's really Thanksgiving when you help somebody else, when you make somebody else have a better day. They are very appreciative; some people really get emotional, too. I just get to see them smile, and that's all I need to keep me going."

This year, Pettee has teamed up with Lionel Ballard of the Tampa Electric Company charities to identify needy families, and restaurateur Steve Nesbitt has agreed to share the cost. All three men say they'll go door-to-door with this year's Thanksgiving meals.

For those whose budgets are tight, the global relief organization Mercy Corps suggests that people give whatever amount they're spending on their own Thanksgiving dinner, to help others. Caitlin Carlson, the group's communications officer, says every dollar counts in countries facing war or weather-related crises. As an example, a $30 dollar donation buys an emergency food box to supply a household for several days after a flood or earthquake.

"Emergency food is critical because, when economies are completely decimated by a natural disaster, there are no markets anymore to go to. The flow of food stops."

The United Nations has named malnutrition the world's top health risk. Carlson says the Thanksgiving request is part of Mercy Corps' "One Table" campaign, a push to invest more money in fighting hunger and helping women support their families. The group works in 40 countries.

Carlson adds it is easy and convenient to donate online. The addresses for these charities are: www.tampabayfreekidzstore.org and www.mercycorps.org/thanksgiving.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL