Tampa family provides meals to homeless every Sunday

By RaeChelle Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Sunday, March 19, 2017, 5:50 PM EDT

You have heard the old saying, "practice what you preach.”

It’s one many of us try to live up to, but one Bay area family is putting those words into action.

Every Sunday around noon a long line forms at the street corner of Williams Park in St. Petersburg. Everyone there knows "The Family" is coming.

"They call us 'The Family'," said Robert Meier, chuckling. "They don't really know our names.”

"The Family" is the Meiers. Robert, his wife Marisa and their five children.

They pull up in their family mini-van packed to the brim with food.

"It's a delicious meal," 11-year old Colton Meier said.

Every Sunday around noon a long line forms at the street corner of Williams Park in St. Petersburg. (RaeChelle Davis, staff)

Colton and his four sisters help their parents set up two old folding tables. Others help them carry the crates of food, plates, silverware and cups. After a quick prayer to bless each other and the food, they begin filling the plates high with burgers, cheese, rice and all the fixings. There is even a chocolate egg for dessert. The Meier family has been doing this each and every Sunday for nearly a year.

"Here's a couple of things they told me over the year," Robert said. "'It's the best meal we get.' Because we cook it all at my house. Every Sunday we start cooking in the morning about 6 a.m. My wife did all the barbecuing today and so it's home cooked and it's made with real love just like you make for your family."

Like any good mother, Marisa Meier is busy handing out clothing and shoes she gathered over the week to make sure everyone has what they need.

"One of the ladies was saying, 'you know, there's meals during the week but not on the weekends,'” Marisa said. “She goes, 'sometimes I go two days without eating.' She was pregnant and she just had her baby."

Marisa is talking about Martha Carlin who relies on the family's generosity.

"I gave up my child for adoption so that I would not be a welfare mom. I can barely feed myself and I can't count on the help that I need," said Carlin.

She said she has tried to find a job and has a high school education, but she has struggled because she has nowhere to live and the facilities for women like her are full. To say she is grateful for "The Family" is an understatement.

"They bring meals to us. They bring us clothes. They bring us bedding. Everything that we need. So, I really appreciate them,” Carlin said.

Helping those in need in any way you can is what the Meiers hope their children will take away from this experience.

Robert Meier, his wife Marisa and their five children.  

The Meiers stretch their family budget to afford the $200 a week they spend to feed nearly 150 people on Sundays. They are not affiliated with any church program and rely on themselves and occasional donations from friends or kind souls. Still, they always find a way.

"Don't ever be afraid to find a way to reach out to the poor. They have a need. And you know God loves those who help the poor, so you're well-loved when you help."

If you would like to donate food, clothing, shoes, or money to help the Meier family feed the homeless you can visit their website www.hotmealsforhomeless.org. They are saving money to buy a food truck that will help them take their meals around the Tampa Bay area to help more people in need of a good meal.