‘We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just simply complain about them.” ~ Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

The moment I read Jackie Kennedy’s quote, I was transported to a situation Trinity Cafe and many nonprofits who serve our homeless neighbors struggle with on a regular basis, the it’s okay to feed the homeless, but I don’t want them in my backyard, the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) challenge. How do we come together to right the wrongs?

Trinity Cafe is a refuge, an intentional community that serves all in need of a nutritious meal. Our guests may be in-between jobs or struggling with retirement or disability support that just doesn’t cover their monthly needs. Our guests may simply be neighbors who actually live close by and seek a healthy option for themselves and their children. In all truth, some of our guests are homeless, either by choice or circumstance.
Who are we to judge?

At Trinity Cafe we serve more than just a meal, more than 1.3 million to date. We interact with each and every guest, sharing compassion, dignity, love and respect. Our goal is to serve a basic, human need and to inspire so much more.

Our volunteers serve guests on plates with silverware and cups, offering no disposable items to leave our property. We hold monthly neighborhood cleaning projects in an effort to serve as good neighbors. Our dedicated staff volunteers regularly to clean the local bus stop to mitigate the concern that trash accumulates near homeless programs. I believe that Trinity Cafe’s existence benefits our neighborhoods when viewing photos like those shared above. I see an opportunity to take action, a challenge to bring respect, joy and inspiration to those in need. With all my heart I do not support the systemic gentrification of the communities in which we serve. While I do  support the revival of our historic neighborhoods by offering assistance to generations of people, many of whom were born in the areas in which they “live.”

Leading by example is our Director of First Impressions, Byron Graves who oversees our Busch location. He puts much of Trinity Cafe’s reality in perspective, “Some of us are one paycheck from being homeless. Some, one paycheck from being off the streets. One paycheck from hope for a better life.”

Byron began his journey with us, homeless. Yes, Byron lived on the streets but because he was able to pull up a chair at our table and had people care for his well being, he is off the streets and now a valuable and inspiring member of our team. Pictured here with young Alex who visits with his family and neighbors regularly. Alex wants to, “Be just like Mr. Byron when he grows up.”

Like many of our guests, as a native Floridian, dare I say decades long resident of Tampa, I invite anyone who questions the purpose, success and goals of Trinity Cafe to please join us for a day and volunteer. It’s very rare that someone experiences our joyful and supportive environment just once.

As inspired by Ms. Kennedy-Onassis, I’ll share my own thought on the matter,
“Once properly educated on a wrong, how can you turn away and not do something to make it right?”

Shannon Hannon-Oliviero
Director of Development & Communications
Trinity Cafe