A vision of thanks

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

TAMPA — During this season of thanksgiving, Children With A Vision, Inc. brought together community partners to show their appreciation for what they have by helping the less fortunate at their 14th annual Pre-Thanksgiving Blessings held Nov. 13 in downtown Tampa.

“Jesus tells us that we are one body in Christ. Everyone – rich, poor, every race, every age – has a legitimate role to play in that body,” said Tonya Lewis, founder of Children With A Vision, Inc. We may go to an economical distressed area with the intention of helping someone else, but ultimately we will be helping each other grow together into the body of Christ as the Lord envisioned from the beginning of time.”

Children With A Vision, Inc. was founded in 1996 by convicted felon Tonya Lewis who sought to bridge the gap left open when a person is trying to re-enter back into a community only to find that much has changed and many doors of opportunity have been closed.

The organization’s mission is to provide leadership in the pursuit of excellence and to create effective learning opportunities for all. Lewis feels that education leads to success. She believes if given the resources, every student, parent and leader can succeed and prosper.

“We had such a wonderful time today,” said Lewis. “There were families, mothers and fathers with their children, who came to receive Thanksgiving baskets because there was a real need.”

Through their volunteers, families in need learned that somebody out there cares about their challenges and will not judge their plight in life. Lewis said the atmosphere was loving and fun, but tiring.

“I look forward to doing this every year.”

Individual families and businesses from the community gave monetary donations, cooked dishes and volunteered for an evening of turkey, dressing, desserts and other trimmings that made for a complete Thanksgiving meal. Everyone who showed up was served.

“There were a lot of people who came out to help out and to be served,” said Tranette Engram, founder and president of “She Helps To Empower,” a community partner organization and friend of Lewis. “To be able to feed those who appreciate your effort and talk with the gifted and talented people is both humbling and rewarding. It makes you appreciate the things that we’ve been afforded. We can’t take anything for granted.”

Aside from the annual Pre-Thanksgiving Blessings event, Children With A Vision, Inc. takes on other projects geared towards uplifting the community.

There’s the Easter Day Program where they take 150 youth to church on Easter Sunday to learn about Jesus. They purchase and provide all the clothing, shoes and Easter baskets.

For the back-to-school giveaway, they provide backpacks to over 5,000 children, and (10) $500 scholarships to graduating seniors.

Every October, Operation Safe Halloween gets underway. It’s designed to keep the kids off the streets by providing them with food, entertainment, bounce house and candy galore.

There’s also the collaboration with former Buccaneer Ryan Nece with a three-day project called Feed The Families. On the second day, Children With A Vision, Inc. partners with local churches to feed and provide a hot meal to members. They also provide a Thanksgiving basket to 150 families so they can prepare their own Thanksgiving meal.

And for the month of December, they provide a Toys 4 Tots wish list to 150 mentally disabled and orphan children.

This season of thanksgiving brought together community partners, volunteers, families and community alliances to help change lives in downtown Tampa. Thanksgiving is all about caring and sharing in our bountiful blessings. For that vision, more than 300 families said thanks.

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