TAMPA — Workers from New Beginnings, a Christian work-therapy program for substance abusers, again are selling concessions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games — but under different conditions.
The workers lost their jobs when Aramark, the company that provides concessions at Raymond James Stadium, suspended its contract with New Beginnings. The company said in a letter it temporarily was ending the relationship because of media reports that the money workers made at the stadium went to room and board at the nonprofit operation.
At about the same time, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner asked the federal government to investigate whether New Beginnings was exploiting the workers. The Department of Labor recently finished its probe, but the findings have not been released.
Now the New Beginnings residents are back working Bucs games in greater numbers than under the Aramark contract. The men were hired by All Team Staffing, a temporary help agency, to work the Buccaneers’ final home games, against the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
“We got them more work than what they were doing before because we do cleanup afterward in addition to concessions,” said Bill Clark, office manager for All Team Staffing. Clark said he got no complaints from Aramark about hiring the New Beginnings residents.
“They were all well-mannered and very respectful,” Clark said.
The Rev. Tom Atchison, the Pentecostal preacher who founded New Beginnings, said the arrangement through All Team Staffing is better than the Aramark contract because the workers get paychecks with taxes and Social Security taken out. Aramark pays money directly to charities that send volunteers to work the games.
“The long-term effect of the guys working will be it gets them full-time jobs,” Atchison said. “That remains one of our goals. We’re really happy because we’ve got more work than we ever had.”
Atchison said the men who work the football games will not have to turn their paychecks over to him. But residents who get a full-time job are supposed to pay $150 a week for their room, board and counseling.
If they don’t have a job, they work cleaning or cooking at the organization’s transitional housing in North Tampa or at one of several businesses run by New Beginnings. That’s all part of the program’s work therapy, Atchison said.
“It’s about them; it’s about their recovery,” he said. “Guys working is a major part of their recovery. If our guys leave the program with a backpack on and no money in their pocket, their chance of relapsing is pretty great.”
Atchison said All Team Staffing contacted New Beginnings about hiring men for the games because many of them were already trained and certified in food and beverage sales under the Aramark contract and have had criminal background checks. About 40 to 45 New Beginnings residents are slated to work the Outback Bowl at the stadium on New Year’s Day, he said.
The media reports also caused Centerplate, the food and beverage service at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, to suspend its contract with New Beginnings.
But Atchison said he hopes to re-establish that relationship before the Tampa Bay Rays start playing baseball at the stadium in April.
“They just put it on hold,” Atchison said of the Centerplate suspension. “We’re not even concerned about that yet.”