Less than two months after celebrating her ministry's storefront ribbon-cutting, Cynthia Pinckney and her volunteers opened their doors to the homless, hungry and needy on Christmas Day in Seffner.
"There's such a need," she said. "It just blows my mind the number of families living in cars. It's humbling to hear what people are going through."
Pinckney said she has been ministering to the homeless in the area, on foot and in concert with other groups and organizations, for almost a decade, and that the need for help is not abating but rather growing.
"We're finding more people have lost their jobs, have lost their housing, and they're in great need," she said. "They need about everything. The ones who have a place to stay, they need help with lighting and electricity bills. Most of the time when they come to me they need groceries and small household items."
As for the homeless, "they're telling me they're losing their jobs and because they're losing their jobs they're also losing their homes," she added.
For years Pinckney had been serving the homeless on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as well, at the Boys & Girls Club in Brandon, but for the past two years had been focusing on building support to open a storefront ministry to serve a greater and continuing need throughout the year.
That dream was realized earlier this year, an accomplishment celebrated at a Nov. 13 ribbon-cutting held by the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce for the ministry, at 12008 East Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the Greater Brandon area of Seffner and Mango.
Inside the Cynthia Pinckney Ministries storefront, between Pine Street and Highview Road, are clothes closets for men, women and children; a food bank; a room for prayer and meditation; a conference room; and two reception areas.
- See Cynthia Pinckney Ministries Opens Storefront Aid in Seffner
- For a look inside the storefront ministry, see
At the ministry on Christmas Day, in two spaces donated for the occasion by the center's owner, Pinckney and her volunteers served meals to the homeless, hungry and needy. Inside the ministry itself, kids received and played with toys, families found clothes and people found a quiet place to sit and unwind or meditate.
"We really needed [the storefrong]," Pinckney said. "I wanted people to be able to come in and talk. I wanted to really get to know the people and the homeless and having our own place has enabled me to do that."
"Sometimes they stop by and they just want water," she added. The ministry has a refrigerator stocked with water bottles for such an occasion.
Also at the ready are "manna bags" filled with soup, crackers, water, dessert "and some type of meat that they can eat without having a place to stay or a kitchen to cook in," Pinckney said.
"They don't need ID to get that," she added.
Pinckney said at some point she would like to be able to stock a washer and dryer as well, so that those in need can wash their clothes instead of throwing them out after a time of use that renders them no longer wearable.
As for what the community can do to help, Pinckney said it is as it always has been: "If you can volunteer some of your time, some of your resoures, then please do."
Sooner or later, she added, the giver might be in need of a gift.
"Our future we never know, we never know what's ahead of us," Pinckney said. "You never know if you'll be in a position of need yourself."