Jeff Darrey was moved to action when he saw the number of homeless men and women camped out on the steps of a church and seeking help.
He and his family would visit local parks with buckets of fried chicken offering a meal and companionship to their homeless neighbors. He quickly learned that the conversation was almost more important than the meal itself. But, it wasn’t enough.
In the spring of 2001, Fr. Mike Muhr, encouraged Jeff to examine how his church might serve the homeless through a food program. Through Jeff’s business travels in the eastern United States he saw a variety of options from soup kitchens to bag sandwich lunches, to cafeteria style meals served on disposable tableware. He suggested to Fr. Muhr that they open a free restaurant offering unconditional service with no requirements. His vision was to recruit community volunteers to deliver chef-prepared meals to guests seated at tables set with china, tablecloths and flowers. With Fr. Muhr’s blessings, Jeff and co-founder, Bob Mullen, embarked on enlisting additional like-minded individuals to form a board of directors and Trinity Cafe’s vision took shape.
Since opening Trinity Cafe October 15, 2001, it has been its mission to provide those in need with a beautiful nutritious meal in an environment of love, care, dignity, and respect. The one-on-one conversation and relationship-building Jeff modeled in the parks with his family was the foundation of the model that established Trinity Cafe. We have remained faithful to this dignity service model while serving 1.4 million meals over the past 17 years. We have not compromised this mission or commitment.
Jeff has been a tireless volunteer, advocate and champion persistently working to guarantee Trinity Cafe thrives.
“I believe this is the way Christ would treat the poor.” ~ Jeff Darrey, Founder and Chairman of the Board, Trinity Cafe
In 2019 a new chapter in this story is being written. Trinity Cafe bravely embarks on a journey merging with Feeding Tampa Bay. It is an exciting time for both organizations as we work together to offer innovative hunger solutions for those we serve. There will be more programs that help alleviate hunger with opportunities for Trinity Cafe to grow and expand to serve more of God’s people. We hope to pave the way for this blueprint to be used across Feeding Tampa Bay’s 10-county service area. Furthermore, Feeding Tampa Bay is a member of a network of 199 other food banks where the Trinity Cafe model can be shared for replication in other cities nationally.
Jeff’s legacy and the legacy of Trinity Cafe is unconditional, dignified, compassionate service to all of God’s people. Ultimately ensuring today, and in the future, relationships are fostered around our dining room tables and humanity begins with a meal.
A reflection and tribute by Cindy Davis