Building new lives with a warm meal and a smile - FOX 13 News

Building new lives with a warm meal and a smile

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Gratitude rings through Trinity Cafe. For the last 12 years, the non-profit restaurant has served more than 900,000 homeless people in Tampa.

Big, hearty, hot meals are available, including coffee, which is a welcome treat in the winter.

Denise Waiden has been homeless for five years and said she's very grateful for Trinity and wishes there were more places like this in town.  

"It's warm in here. You can get good, hot food," she said.

Trinity Cafe is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch and also serves on the weekends. It's just one of the many reasons it's not your ordinary soup kitchen. 

Cindy Davis, Trinity Cafe's program director, said everything you see done in a restaurant is done there.

Patrons are always greeted, and then seated at their table. They're treated with respect, as would any paying customer. The volunteers say they sit down with everyone they serve, have conversations with them, and treat them like they're a guest in their own home. 

Founder Jeff Darrey said the goal is for each person to leave with a full stomach and a sense of dignity. 

"We serve a wonderful meal, but our whole premise is providing an environment of love, care and dignity, and that's the most important thing that we do every day, I believe," he said.

Five-thousand volunteers help keep Trinity Cafe's doors open year round. Bill volunteers once a week and is overwhelmed by the gratitude he receives.

"They'll walk up, they'll shake your hand, they'll pat you on the back," he told us. "I'm trying to tell them to stay warm and be safe out there, and they're saying, 'thank you so much I look forward to this every week.'"

But the best part for the volunteers is watching people who have had nothing get their lives back.

"People who will come in and say you're not going to see me anymore because I've gotten my own apartment. I've gotten a job. I'm moving forward," Darrey said.

And it all starts with a warm meal and a smile.

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