TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Patti Stepbach as the 41st Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game against the Boston Bruins. Stepbach, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Operation HeartF.E.L.T., Arc Nature Coast and New Life.
As a former educator, Stepbach experienced firsthand the reality of child hunger and the effect it has on a child's ability to learn. Understanding that homeless students get two square meals a day at school, but on the weekends many are left lacking, she was moved to action. In 2009, Stepbach started Operation HeartF.E.L.T., a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide nutritious meals to students and their siblings on weekends, holidays and extended break periods.
While working a full time job, Stepbach finds at least 20 hours a week to contribute to Operation HeartF.E.L.T. During last year's school year, Operation HeartF.E.L.T. delivered over 40,000 meals. She leads a volunteer based staff who invests hundreds of hours a week picking up food, managing fund raisers, packing backpacks and delivering them to local schools.