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Friday, Apr 18, 2014
Steve Otto

Otto: Daily meal a miracle for many in Tampa

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The trouble with feeding the homeless over the holidays is that the holidays don’t last forever. There is always tomorrow.

In fact, the same truth holds up for the rest of the year, which I’ve never quite understood. The homeless are still there, not just on the weekdays but also on weekends.

That’s about to change at one of the special places in our community, the Trinity Cafe.

On Jan. 4, the cafe, 2801 Nebraska Ave., will begin serving hot breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.

It is a monumental event.

Cindy Davis, who is the program director at the cafe for the homeless, poor or just hungry, would agree.

“Being able to serve 365 days a year has always been our dream. It has only been recently that we obtained our own building that we’ve been able to plan to make it all happen.

“We’ve watched as our guests come in for our daily meal on Mondays. The atmosphere is so much different from the rest of the week. The guests are much quieter. You can tell that many of them haven’t eaten since Friday and there is none of the banter you might normally hear. All they want is something to eat.

“We’ve tried to compensate. Chef Alfred (Astil) has always given out larger portions on Fridays and again on Mondays to these people who are not going to eat again for two or three days.’’

For most of us it’s difficult to understand that in our community one in six people don’t have enough to eat daily.

Don’t you wonder, in our town with everything we have going for us, that there are numbers like that?

If you’re not familiar with the Trinity Cafe, it has been serving the homeless for more than 12 years. This spring they were able to secure their own building, formerly a nightclub, and transform it into a place that serves a full three-course meal five days a week — all prepared by a world-class chef who is nothing less than a miracle worker. At last count they had served something like 892,000 meals.

The guests are seated at tables with tablecloths and silverware and treated with respect.

“We did some surveys with our population,’’ says Davis, “to find out what they would like and overwhelmingly they said they would like to have a good breakfast again. We tried it out on Thanksgiving, figuring that was one day when all of the organizations that work with the homeless would be having turkey lunches and dinners. It was an overwhelming success.

“Serving on the weekends should also help with our volunteers. We have a number of school groups and it has been difficult to get their service hours during weekdays, and having hours available on weekends should help.’’

Davis says they are going to do the breakfast again on Christmas morning and then kick off the weekend breakfasts on Jan. 4.

If you would like more information, would like to make a donation or be a volunteer, call Cindy Davis at (813) 865-4822.

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