TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Bruce DeGrace as the 39th Lightning Community Hero this season today at Neighborly Care in Clearwater. DeGrace, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate to the money to Neighborly Care. Despite the NHL pause, the Lightning will continue to honor the final Community Heroes of the season, including today's at Neighborly Care. Each week the Lightning will travel to the hero's charity of choice to honor the great work done by the chosen Heroes. The Community Hero award is proudly celebrated by Jabil, who is the sponsor of the Lightning Community Hero Program.
Under the supervision of a site coordinator at each of Neighborly Care's eight sites, Meals on Wheels (MOW) drivers deliver nutritious meals to over 1,000 homebound seniors during a 90-minute shift each weekday. Senior Dining Café volunteers assist with packaging meals for MOW routes, assist with meal service for Senior Dining clients, and interact with diners and their social activities.
DeGrace volunteers with both of Neighborly Care's MOW and Senior Dining programs. He arrives first thing in the morning to help sort the meals for every homebound senior on every route from that site. When the MOW drivers arrive, the hot meals, coolers and client route sheets are ready and waiting because of DeGrace's assistance. He even color-codes the route sheets to make deliveries easier for other volunteers (as well as the nutrition staff). DeGrace even trains each new MOW driver to make sure they are comfortable and confident in their role. If a driver cannot cover a route that day, he is likely to fill in. DeGrace knows the clients as well as the paid staff does and has the ability to recognize when a client may not be themselves and thoughtfully inquires about their well-being.
DeGrace becomes the 404th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through today's presentation, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $20.35 million to more than 750 different nonprofits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. During the summer of 2016, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10 million over the next five seasons.