After 11 years of serving lunch for the area's needy, the Faith Cafe will serve its final meal Saturday at its original location on Kennedy Boulevard.
But backers hope that ending soon will lead to a new beginning at another location.
Organizers have bought property at 1340 Clearview Ave., south of Interstate 275 and north of Cypress Street. By the end of the year, they hope, they will be serving lunch for 80 to 120 needy people six days a week in a new 2,600-square-foot Faith Cafe at that spot.
The cafe has been operating at 3702 W. Kennedy Blvd. since 2001. Last month, property owner Jim Mikes, who had been letting the group use the property, asked the café's board of directors to vacate the property by the end of July.
"It was unexpected - caught us a little off guard," said Aubrey Smith, board president of the South Tampa Ecumenical Ministries Inc., the organization that oversees the Faith Cafe. "We knew we were eventually going to leave that spot.''
The service won't change at the new location, Smith said. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and guests still will be asked to fill out a sign-up sheet that states their name, sex and race. The information is given to Metropolitan Ministries for its records.
Metropolitan Ministries, along with a number of area restaurants, donates food to Faith Cafe.
The new location will have more room and allow organizers to expand its clothes closet for the needy. With more office space, there is room to potentially offer medical services, Smith said.
Meanwhile, Faith Cafe volunteers have been searching for a temporary location. They have visited six to 12 sites and hope to have an announcement soon.
"We're very disheartened because of the disruption, but we're optimistic," Smith said. "Everyone wants the homeless fed but not anywhere near them."
Mikes said the Kennedy Boulevard property will be renovated and four businesses will move in: Tijuana Flats, Burger Fi, Brass Tap Beer Bar and a new restaurant by the owners of Ceviche.
"The city approved the site plans," Mikes said. "We've been working on construction plans. It's time to get started."
He's hoping the restaurants open by spring 2013.
He said organizers of Faith Cafe have known for several years they eventually would have to find a new location.
Smith said the group is still collecting donations and supplies to build the new Faith Cafe and also are asking for assistance from people in the construction field.
Anyone interested in donating money can visit www.faithcafetampa.com. Anyone wanting to donate building material or their expertise can contact Sinclair Group Construction Services at (813) 259-9090.