Service to Mankind 2013 - Jeff Darrey

STM 2013 2013-08-13

In most of our nation’s cities, homelessness has been a recurring challenge as to how best to help those who, after losing their job, find they can no longer afford to stay in their home.  With no home or income, the source of their next meal becomes a real concern.  

About 13 years ago, as an active member of Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida, Jeff Darrey was asked by Father Mike Moore to look into improving the church’s food bank to help meet the needs of a growing homeless population.   He looked at over 21 different operations involved in feeding the homeless, hungry and working poor.  Some were food banks while others were soup kitchens where guests snake through a line and are served on disposable tableware or handed a bag lunch with a sandwich.  

Jeff began to develop a vision for a free sit-down restaurant for the needy. Guests are greeted, seated and served a hot, three-course meal on tables set with cloth, china, silverware and a flower center piece.  His search resulted in the start up of the Trinity Café in 2001. 

Initially, Trinity Café opened its doors from St. Peter Claver Church on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, Fl.  As the number of homeless needing to be fed increased, they moved a few blocks away to the Salvation Army building on Florida Avenue.

Today, the Trinity Café serves its guests from its newest quarters in a renovated building on Nebraska Avenue. The new facility equipped by both purchased and donated items, has a restaurant quality kitchen and more dining space. Over 240 guests are served daily.  The doors open at 11:30a.m. and those with tickets, freely given out mid-morning,  are invited in and seated at tables holding 6 guests and a host.  The host teams up with a server to make this a special time in the life of those on the street.  

After some introductions, the meal begins with a hot soup or chilled salad, then a protein-rich entrée with two tasty side dishes, followed by dessert, fruit juice and bread with butter.  This respite helps restore a bit of dignity to lives turned bleak by the street. 

Jeff is married to wife Sharon and they have four adult children. In addition to the Trinity Café, Jeff spends about 4 hours each week serving his church as the Eucharistic Minister for homebound and terminally ill.

In addition to serving as Chairman of the Board for Trinity Café, Jeff is also Chairman of the Board for Catholics for Cameroon whose mission is to build a new Cathedral in Nkambe, Cameroon, in West Africa. 

Jeff is a member of Legatus, which is a global organization of Catholic CEO’s, where he served on their international Board of Governors from 2008-2011. 

In his spare time, Jeff enjoys kayaking, biking and reading extensively about homelessness and lives of the saints.

Jeff is more persistent and determined than most. He set a goal to feed the homeless by opening this free restaurant. If not for his vision and insistence Trinity Café would never have opened nor would it have survived. Jeff is single-handedly responsible for overcoming every obstacle and hardship ever faced by the café. 

Since 2001, the Trinity Café under Jeff’s guidance has served over 848,000 meals to the homeless, hungry and working poor.  On their website, one sentence stands out. “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others”. 

The Millennium Sertoma Club is proud to have the Trinity Café as one of our sponsorships and is pleased to be able to submit the person and work of Jeff Darrey as our 2013 Service to Mankind recipient. 

About Sertoma
Founded in 1912, Sertoma is the third oldest civic service organization. Sertomans total about 11,000 members in clubs throughout the United States. Every year Sertoma clubs raise more than $20 million for community needs. Through these projects, as well as grants and scholarships, Sertoma clubs return those funds to their respective communities. Sertoma’s primary service project is assisting the more than 50 million people with speech-language and hearing disorders.
© Millennium Sertoma Club 2017