Friday, June 22, 2018
Opinion

Hope is on the menu at Trinity Cafe

John is a military veteran and a retired policeman. He had a terrible motorcycle accident, and the doctors told his wife he wouldn't make it. But over the course of a year in the hospital, John learned to walk and talk again.

Soon after he was released, his wife died suddenly. John was devastated; he'd lost the love of his life and his support system. He got behind on bills, and his electricity was disconnected.

We first met John the day Trinity Cafe served its one millionth meal.

For nearly 15 years, Trinity Cafe has restored dignity to our homeless and hungry guests while serving more than 1.1 million nutritious meals. The most important aspect of our mission is nurturing the spirits of our guests.

They hunger for a sense of community, for conversation, for someone to acknowledge them. We build intentional community around a dining room table. We get to know our guests by name. A volunteer host is seated at each table offering conversation, a listening ear and a connection to community. We help restore dignity to lives by the way we serve.

We cheered when Will announced to a full dining room that he had landed a job. Guests, volunteers and staff applauded and encouraged him. He looked forward to having an alarm clock wake him in the morning, having a place to work and purpose again in his life. This is one of many successes we experienced.

We connect our guests with a vast array of supportive services that offer a tangible benefit including housing, health care, employment services, counseling and case management.

The waiting lists are long, and resources are limited. There are only 1,000 beds for the homeless, and more than 1,800 people are homeless in our community. With no other housing options, these guests rely on Trinity Cafe for their daily sustenance.

Many of our guests also live near or in the same neighborhoods where we are located. They struggle with poverty, unemployment, and some work part-time or are on disability. Skipping meals to stretch food is commonplace.

There are an estimated 200,000 food insecure households in Hillsborough County, and one in four are children. We know Sarah by name; she brings her own Ziploc container, eats half a meal and takes the remainder home so her son will have dinner.

Approximately 400 men, women and children rely on us daily for a meal at two locations, yet their voices are not always the loudest in the room. Our struggling neighbors deserve our compassion, generosity and efforts to help them find solutions that restore dignity and promote self-sufficiency.

We are grateful every time we see a $5 online donation made by Wayne Douglas, a former guest. He is now employed and volunteers at Trinity Cafe. He said, "My small donation is just my way of thanking Trinity Cafe for all you did for me when I was in need."

We understand the concerns that have been raised in the neighborhood about the presence of the homeless and hungry here and are committed to being a good neighbor. We can transform our community by working together toward solutions that build relationships and ensure the weakest members of our society are treated with dignity, acceptance, compassion, love and respect.

John first came to Trinity Cafe more than a year ago. We connected him with assistance to get his electricity turned on. The lifelong medical issues he deals with are being addressed at the VA.

"I have a new chance in life and I'm working to stay on my feet," John said. "I really appreciate the encouragement, food and kindness at Trinity Cafe."

Mandy Cloninger is executive director of the Trinity Cafe in Tampa.

Comments
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBIís handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18