#MyGivingStory began as I watched tragedy strike in a city far away, but it hit me as if it was my own home.

It was 2014 and I was working at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa – I was a server working the overnight shift.

I was on break at 2 am, the Ferguson riots were being reported on the news.  I watched the TV in the break room as the story unfolded and my heart filled with sadness.  A friend sitting across from me at the table said “nothing good is going to come from these riots”.  Something sparked within me.  I felt inspired and decided that indeed, something good could had to come out of this.

I left the casino that morning and went online seeking out volunteer opportunities in Tampa.  Watching the news that night and seeing how much humanity could take from each other, I felt inspired to find a way to give back.  When I returned to work the next day my co-workers at the casino were supportive and excited about my hunger to volunteer.

Upon finding a list of places to volunteer in Tampa, Trinity Cafe immediately spoke to me.  I have been a server in the restaurant industry for over twenty years.  To serve needy people in a restaurant setting seemed tailor-made for me.

Walking in to Trinity Cafe for the first time was daunting.  Not knowing anyone, I shyly introduced myself to the volunteer coordinator and was assigned a table.  It was a busy day and everyone worked hard.  I walked out of that building that first day tired but rewarded.

A few months later my friend Will Fridlin passed away.  Will was very special to me during a younger time in my life.  Will ended up dying homeless on the streets of San Francisco.  It was after Will passed that my commitment to Trinity Cafe (and in the bigger picture, simply helping people) was solidified.

It was thrilling for me to log online one day and find out a second Trinity Cafe location was to be opened only ten minutes from where I live.  I was at Trinity Cafe 2 both the soft opening day and the official opening day.  It’s been heartwarming to watch Trinity Cafe 2 grow – more and more people’s needs are being fulfilled.

One of the most important things about Trinity Cafe to me is not only is every single guest accepted – but so is every volunteer.  Being a volunteer coordinator I have worked alongside people of every age, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, and gender. 

The greatest beauty to me about Trinity Cafe is that everyone is accepted on both sides of the table.

Tampa is my favorite place in the world and my soul is much richer for having found Trinity Cafe.  There’s nothing better than giving back to the city you love and the people within it who need it the most.  Who knew when I left my shift at the casino that one evening the path of my life would change forever, I would begin living #MyGivingStory.

This #GivingTuesday please GIVE and help provide a chef prepared, healthy meal for the many guests who are served at our tables!
Humanity just begins with a meal.