TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Sheila Lopez as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight's game against the New York Rangers. Lopez, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Pinellas Hope, an institution of Catholic Charities.
In five years of working with Pinellas Hope, Lopez has helped more than 3,500 underprivileged individuals with over half of them finding success in getting back on their feet by rejoining their families, finding housing or accepting a program for their rehabilitation of drug abuse. Her spirit is reflected in the willingness to make and serve more than 600,000 meals since Pinellas Hope opened. All of the success that the program has enjoyed has come from Ms. Lopez's commitment for the residents in her care. There has not been a holiday, or any kind of celebration where it has not been coordinated and executed by Lopez through her presence in serving the residents. She has faced tornadoes, cold nights and personal tragedies that have resulted in death of a resident, but every time she was the first person to respond and react.
Since its inception in December 2005, Pinellas Hope has operated nonstop 24 hours a day service to people in need of support. It's an organization devoted to providing shelter to the homeless through tents, as well as providing warm meals, running water and laundry services. Ms. Lopez takes the special effort, attention and love to see that the needs of almost 400 individuals are addressed on a daily basis. She single handedly assists people in making sure they have a chance to become independent and self-reliant. One of her residents recently said about Ms. Lopez and Pinellas Hope, "Sheila Lopez is a wonderful woman with a big heart. If you try, they will help you in every way - it's a place that God sent." She has demonstrated a respect for all the people she cares for, no matter what their special circumstance may be. All the individuals at Pinellas Hope recognize that Sheila shows them respect and that every effort is made under her leadership to recognize those in need as a fundamental result of her own compassion.