For God, Country and Lunch

Trinity Cafe's Chef Alfred Astl and Program Director Cindy Davis.
"Kindness, love and compassion is the most important thing we do today," Program Director Cindy Davis told a circle of about 20 purple-aproned volunteers on Monday at the Trinity Cafe.
It was a few minutes before the 11:30 a.m. serving time at Trinity, where the homeless and hungry of downtown Tampa can go for lunch on most weekdays.

"Any time is a good time for pie."
The 4th of July special was double beef burgers and apple pie. A mix of pop and indie songs from Springsteen, the Eagles and Rhett Miller played in the background. 

A seasoned volunteer led a group prayer and then the doors opened for business. 

The volunteers worked two per table; one served while the other chatted up the guests. Cindy explained that because the homeless are among society's most shunned, acknowledging them is as important feeding them.

Several years ago Cindy was working for the Tampa Tribune when she read an article about the Trinity Cafe, no ordinary soup kitchen.

She envisioned volunteering there after retirement, which came earlier than expected when she was laid off on a Tuesday in 2009. 

"The following Monday I was down here volunteering," she said. Now she's one of two full-time employees, the other being Chef Alfred Astl.

Volunteer Rachel Coleman is the co-founder of High Hopes in High Heels, a networking and volunteering group for young professional women. 

Coleman said the group does five to seven charity events a year, including partnering up with the Shriners for their upcoming Glam Jam at the end of July. 

The group also does monthly community events, so Rachel and HHinHH member Andrea Balboa took this holiday to volunteer at Trinity. 

Rachel also recruited her fiance Frank Luis.

Orlando Gutierrez, 28, is an Air Force veteran who ran supply delivery convoys from post to post throughout Kuwait and Iraq during the current war. 

Orlando on volunteering: "Just paying it forward, as they say."
"I've been in this spot and needed help," he said when asked why he volunteered his time today.

"I got out of it and am doing well."

Orlando is currently a full-time student at USF majoring in social work. He's interested in volunteering with transitional housing programs and was told that the Trinity Cafe was a good way to get started. 

Trinity Cafe's Cindy Davis said the month of July is almost completely booked with volunteers. "Incredible," she adds, "It wasn't this way when I first started." 

They recently went to an online volunteer sign up, which Cindy said is more efficient, prevents overbooking and keeps volunteers coming back. 


  1. Wow. What a positive blog post to read :) I have a soft spot for social workers (cuz I am one)... and know that they rarely get the credit they deserve. Thank you for highlighting people helping people in Tampa.

  2. Thanks! Some of my best friends are, and my mom was too for a while. I think by now I may have earned my honorary degree ;)